Kentucky Wesleyan 84, Bowie St. 64
-- Bowie State's rise to the pinnacle of Division II basketball ended in the first five minutes of the second half tonight.
The Bulldogs, in the postseason for the first time, fell victim to Kentucky Wesleyan's superior height and tournament experience in an 84-64 loss at Lakeland Center.
Kentucky Wesleyan will make its sixth straight appearance in the Division II title game, Saturday at 1 p.m. against Northeastern State, an 84-69 winner over Queens (N.C.). Bowie State, ranked 10th, closed its season with a 30-5 record. Third-ranked Kentucky Wesleyan is 31-3.
"We did the best we could. We worked hard and never gave up," Bowie State Coach Luke D'Alessio said. "If you want to beat Kentucky Wesleyan, you've got to be able to score points against them."
After playing one of the most storied programs in Division II even for a half, the Bulldogs' chances slipped away, as center Tim Washington picked up his fourth foul with 15 minutes 26 seconds left.
"They have their program in place," D'Alessio said. "We're still growing our program. We gave it our best shot."
Washington, a 6-foot-9 senior, was overwhelmed by the Panthers' 6-11 center, Eugene Dabney. Washington, who entered the game averaging 20 points, was held to nine points and five rebounds.
"I feel like I was at a disadvantage with the refs because every time I put the ball on the floor it was a charge," Washington said. "Everyone flops on me."
When Washington sat down after the fourth personal, the Bulldogs trailed 53-45. Then Dabney took over inside on his way to a game-high 28 points.
When D'Alessio put Washington back in with 11 minutes to go, Wesleyan had opened a 61-47 lead, and it was never close again.
With the Panthers' point guard, Marlon Parmer, hitting shots outside and Dabney converting inside, Wesleyan ran away to start the second half. Parmer hit a three-pointer to start the second half and finished with 24 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists.
"I thought our defense played well except for the first five or six minutes of the second half," D'Alessio said. "I think they made their first seven or eight shots.
"If we could have stopped them then, I think we could have got a little cushion, but it never happened. We missed some shots we normally make."
Senior Stephen Moss-Kelley led the Bulldogs with 15 points. Jon Smith and Cornelius McMurray added 12 each.
"To beat Kentucky Wesleyan, you have to play at a certain level the whole time, not just part of the time," D'Alessio said. "And we didn't do it the whole time.''