By KEVIN THOMPSON
The final score of 33-29 looks more like a good football game than the championship score in a high school boys basketball game.
But Syracuse coach Jeff Mathias likes it just fine as he watched his Bulldogs, ranked No. 7 in the Class 2A, take the Hi-Plains League title Saturday night over Meade, the state's No. 4-ranked 2A team, at the Perryan Athletic Complex.
"They fought so hard," Mathias, in his first year as the Bulldogs' head coach, said. "And I knew they would."
Attribute the low score to two things — poor shooting and great defense.
Both teams were streaky with their scoring. In the first quarter, Meade went nearly six minutes between scores, but Syracuse went nearly four minutes. The Bulldogs led 9-8 after one period.
In the second quarter, Syracuse scored on its first three possessions to go up 15-10. That was at the 5:40 mark. They didn't score the rest of the quarter and watched as the Buffaloes tied it up by intermission.
In fact, Syracuse didn't score again until the 2:02 mark of the third period, or a stretch of 11 minutes, 38 seconds. That's 18 straight possessions with no score.
The good news, though, was that Meade could only manage to go up 23-18, hitting just 4-of-14 from the field.
"I told them in the huddle the offense will come," Mathias said. "I said you just keep stopping them on that end of the floor. You can't let the lead get too big where you can't come back."
The comeback came in the form of a long three at the buzzer. James Burkett shoveled a short pass to Gary Parks, standing 10 feet behind the arc. As the horn sounded, his prayer shot bounced on the rim three times before falling in and Syracuse was within two, 23-21.
Using that momentum, the Bulldogs took control of the fourth quarter behind Burkett, who hit all four of his shots and both of his free throws to spark the turnaround and the win.
Despite poor shooting again (2-of-8), Meade still had its chances. As the Bulldogs played a spread offense with a 31-27 lead with just over two minutes to play, Kellan Hernandez stripped the ball at halfcourt and scored on a layup.
Syracuse then spread again, but this time Braeden Simon stepped out of bounds with 36 seconds left.
Meade's Taylor Wiens missed a layup to tie, but got his own rebound, which was knocked out of bounds with 11.1 seconds to play.
After a Syracuse timeout, Meade got the ball under its own basket. A pass to a cutting Randy Friesen bounced off the 6-8 sophomore's hands for the turnover.
With 5.6 seconds left, Hernandez fouled Burkett. His first free throw bounced in and he swished his second to seal the win.
"I can go in the lockerroom and tell them we need to lock down, we need to find a little extra somewhere," Mathias said. "And they do it."
Meade, which had forced Sublette to shoot from the outside the night before with a solid zone defense, played some zone against Syracuse but mostly man-to-man.
Burkett said he was so into the game that he didn't realize what he had done in the fourth quarter. His team just had to keep attacking.
"It was a battle the whole game," he said. "Our coach told us during the game not to be afraid, to attack. We just tried to do what we could. We try to hustle as much as we can; we scrap."
For the game Syracuse hit only 14-of-42 attempts (33 percent), but Meade could only muster 13-of-44 field goals.
The Buffaloes missed all 12 of their three-point attempts, while the Bulldogs only hit one of their 10.
"We just didn't get any flow," Meade coach Dale Deighton said. "Neither team did, but we both battled pretty hard. You only give up 33, typically you think you're going to win."
Missing too many shots and struggling for the field, he said, that just didn't happen.
Meade falls to 9-2 while Syracuse improves to 10-1.
Syracuse 33, Meade 29
Meade 8 7 8 6 -- 29
Syracuse 9 6 6 12 -- 33
Meade — Hernandez 1 1-2 3, C. Little 2 0-0 4, Cordes 1 2-2 4, Davis 3 0-0 6, R. Friesen 5 0-2 10, Gleason 1 0-0 2. Total 13 3-6 29.
Syracuse — Parks 1 0-0 3, Simon 2 0-2 4, Sibley 3 0-0 6, Burkett 7 4-4 18. Total 14 4-6 33.
3-point goals — Meade 0, Syracuse 1 (Parks 1).