Exeter Tigers finish as district runners-up
The Exeter Express reached the end of the line Friday night. The underdog Tigers fell to defending champion Chadwick, 71-63, in the Class 1 District 6 finals in Aurora. After two stirring playoff victories over Walnut Grove and top-seeded Hurley, Exeter finally stumbled. But the Tigers made it to the top step and had a good look at success before they fell.
Chadwick's Seth Thomas was the game's leading scorer with 23, including a perfect 10-for-10 from the line. Exeter freshman Tyler White had 17 on five treys and a pair from the line.
The Tigers held a lead in every quarter against Chadwick, but the defensive pressure and experience of the Cardinals finally spelled the difference. Last year, Chadwick enjoyed a great post-season run, taking the district title and then mowing down Dadeville and Thomas Jefferson to earn a trip to Columbia. The poise and maturity from that experience was evident in the final quarter against Exeter.
The teams fought through three lead changes and a pair of ties before Exeter jumped on top 16-14 to finish the opening period. Kong Lee, Tyler White and Zach Wubker all connected from long range to give the Tigers the early lead.
Exeter opened the second quarter with an 11-2 run, driven by back-to-back treys by White. But after flying to the 27-16 lead, the Tigers went into a graveyard spiral for the final 5:59 of the half. The Cardinals roared back with a 16-0 run of their own and built a 32-27 lead at halftime.
The resilient Tigers were not finished. White hit another bomb to start the third quarter, and Cody Stringer finished a three-point play to pull Exeter within 34-33. Justin Brattin hit the offensive boards, scored and drew a foul on Chadwick's Dakota Johnson. That free throw tied the game at 36-36 with 5:50 to play.
Brock Sorenson tied the game at 38-38 after a Cardinal score, and Brattin's next bucket gave the Tigers their first lead of the third quarter. But Chadwick mounted another push that gave them the 51-47 lead at the final break.
White swished yet another trey to start the final period, and the lead was only 51-50. Wubker hit a pair of free throws, and Brattin scored one to give Exeter a 53-51 lead.
Chadwick recovered with a 7-0 run coming out of a timeout, and led 58-53 with 4:14 to play. Turnovers and cold shooting again plagued the Tigers, but Brattin scored 6 points in the next 1:46 to pull Exeter within a basket at 61-59. But Chadwick held together and pushed to the win. Wubker's final basket of his career came on a layup at the buzzer, and Exeter went down by 71-63.
The Tigers finish their remarkable journey with a MSHSAA second place district plaque. Who would have dreamed of that back when Exeter was 2-9 after a 66-33 loss to Thomas Jefferson on Jan. 15? Doormats no longer, the Tigers have a lot to be proud of and are already looking to next season with high hopes and expectations.
Exeter scorers: Tyler White 17, Justin Brattin 16, Zach Wubker 12, Ryan Hobbs 8, Brock Sorenson 4, Cody Stringer 3 and Kong Lee 3.
Chadwick scorers: Seth Thomas 23, Jason Hull 16, Austin Daugherty 15, David Hahn 10 and Dakota Johnson 7.