By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Springfield, Mo. — When it was needed most in overtime, Dora’s fast break delivered.
The Falcons capitalized on a trio of transition baskets late in the bonus frame to help seal an 80-71 victory over St. Elizabeth during Friday’s Class 1 semifinal.
Mason Luna poured in 8 of Dora’s 11 points in the overtime period.
Two of the Falcons’ transition plays featured back-to-back full-court passes to streaking players.
For Dora head coach Rick Luna, the home-run calls were easy to make with standout Isaac Haney drawing so much defensive attention.
“That’s just one of our things that we do,” Luna said. “Isaac, typically, he’s one of our better free throw shooters. He’s attacking to go get the ball, and if they all swarm him — and typically that’s what they’ll do — they’re going to give up something on the back.”
After the fastbreak opportunities boosted Dora to a 75-71 advantage, the Falcons converted 5-of-6 free throws in the final 30 seconds to preserve the win.
Haney finished with a game-high 28 points for the Falcons, often attacking the rim with reckless abandon.
The 6-foot sophomore attributed his performance to pure instinct and was quick credit his teammates — particularly Mason, Auston and Bryson Luna — for creating repeated opportunities.
“Well, if I was thinking while I was playing I probably wouldn’t be very good,” Haney said. “Best way to play basketball is just rhythm and flow, and it’s super easy playing with these three, especially.”
Having to deal with the Hornets’ significant size advantage, Coach Luna knew the semifinal round would be Dora’s most difficult match-up to date.
“We knew it was going to be a battle coming in,” Luna said. “I had a lot of game tape on them and felt like we came in prepared, but it’s hard to practice against that size and simulate that size in practice. We knew we were going to have our hands full.”
With a trio of long, athletic playmakers in 6-foot-8 Ross Struemph, 6-foot-5 Brady Heckemeyer and 6-foot-4 Nolan Heckemeyer, St. Elizabeth’s front line provided a daunting challenge to the undersized Dora lineup.
While the Hornets finished with a 34-20 advantage on the boards, Dora was able to neutralize much of St. Elizabeth’s advantage with speed and pressure.
What the Falcons didn’t account for was St. Elizabeth’s 10-for-27 performance from beyond the arc. A performance that repeatedly turned back potential game-breaking runs.
The Hornets took their first lead of the game early in the second quarter on a 3-pointer from Carson Kesel; however, Dora wasted little time answering.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Bryson Luna and Haney vaulted the Falcons back to a 24-19 advantage.
Dora stretched its lead to nine late in the third quarter following a 7-0 run, but the Hornets came storming back in the fourth with five 3-pointers.
“They hit ten threes,” Coach Luna said. “Every time we made a run, we just couldn’t put them away, and they shot the ball from the outside better than what I thought they would. From the game tapes I had on them, I really thought they would try to pound it in more.”
Coltin Green led the Hornets with 18 points.
While the transition layups helped stretch the lead in the overtime period, Dora’s free-throw performance was just as lethal.
The Falcons converted 24-of-27 attempts on the afternoon.
Coach Luna praised his team for delivering from the line in the clutch, once again, after converting 71.4% on the season.
“We shot the ball well from the free throw line all year long,” Luna said. “That’s the guys — that’s credit to them. It’s, every day, putting in the extra time and doing what we do.”
Next up for Dora (30-1) is Saturday’s championship matchup against Jefferson-Conception Junction (27-4). The Eagles defeated Linn County 62-49 in Friday’s other semifinal.
Class 1 Semifinal: Dora – 80, St. Elizabeth – 71
St. Elizabeth 16 11 19 23 02 — 71
Dora 16 19 19 15 11 — 80
St. Elizabeth scoring: Coltin Green – 18, Ross Struemph – 16, Carson Kesel – 11, Nolan Heckemeyer – 10, Brady Heckemeyer – 8, Brock Lucas – 8,
Dora scoring: Isaac Haney – 28, Mason Luna – 18, Auston Luna – 13, Waylon Masters – 9, Bryson Luna – 7, Kyle Hambleton – 3, Colby Hoover – 2