By BRETT MARSHALL

bmarshall@gctelegram.com

MANHATTAN Syracuse boys basketball coach Jeff Mathias indicated prior to tipoff of the Bulldogs' first-round Class 2A state tournament game against Washington County (20-3), that the Tigers were a guard-oriented team and would be his team's biggest challenge at Bramlage Coliseum.

Mathias' words proved prophetic as the Tigers' senior trio of Mark Mock, Ryan Fiser and Colin Baker combined for 46 points, and handed the Bulldogs (21-3) their third loss of the season, 61-48.

For Syracuse's senior guard Braeden Simon, the return to Bramlage was an opportunity to remove the disappointment of two years ago when he broke an elbow in the opening minutes of the Syracuse first-round victory. Then, the Bulldogs would finish third, the best in school history.

Simon did all he could do by scoring 13 points, 10 of which came in the first half when the Bulldogs fell behind, 35-24, at halftime.

"It was all on the line," Simon said. "I'm a senior, I'm a leader and you just wanted to go out doing as good as you could. (Washington County) are really good shooters and they're strong everywhere."

What the Bulldogs couldn't overcome were the 9-2 and 13-4 runs in the first two quarters.

Syracuse cut the lead to 22-20 midway through the second before the Tigers ended with a 13-4 outburst for a 35-24 halftime bulge.

The Bulldogs proceeded to knock down a trio of 3-pointers in the third quarter and closed the gap to 45-41 heading to the fourth. They pulled to within two, 47-45, with 6:56 left to play, but it was Mock who put the dagger in the Bulldogs by knocking down consecutive 15-foot running jumpers to follow a bank shot by junior Mitchell Walter.

"It killed our run," Mathias said of Mock's buckets. "We didn't shoot the ball particularly well and at this level you can't do that. They hit and we didn't."

The Tigers rattled off 11 straight points, and held a 58-45 lead before Syracuse's J.D. Howell canned a 3-pointer with just 56 seconds left in the game. But it was too little, too late.

Mock finished with 18 points on 9-of-13 shooting, Fiser added 16 by hitting 10-of-12 free throws, and Baker added 12, including a pair of 3-pointers.

"We knew they were pretty athletic, and every time we made a run at them, they had an answer," Mathias said. "Mock just made big basket after big basket, and we had a hand in his face most of the time."

Syracuse was led by its trio of seniors James Burkett (14), Simon (13) and Dustin Sibley (10), but it was not enough in the 13-point loss.

Washington County (20-3) moves to the semifinals at 4:45 p.m. on Friday against defending champion Berean Academy, a 45-30 victor over Salina-Sacred Heart. In the other half of the bracket, it was Lyndon toppling Pittsburg-St. Mary's Colgan and Nemaha Valley escaping with a 55-53 overtime win over Ness City.

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Washington Co. 20 15 10 16 -- 61

Syracuse 12 12 17 7 -- 48

Washington Co. (20-3) Mock 9-13 0-0 18, Allen 0-3 0-0 0, Fiser 3-12 10-12 16, Baker 4-8 2-2 12, Kongs 0-1 0-0 0, Savage 1-2 0-0 2, Vogt 2-7 1-1 5, Walter 3-9 2-2 8. Totals 22-55 15-17 61.

Syracuse (21-3) Howell 4-10 0-0 9, Parks 0-7 0-0 0, Coleman 0-1 0-0 0, Simon 5-13 0-0 13, McAllister 1-1 0-0 2, Sibley 4-12 0-3 10. Totals 19-59 3-7 48.

3-point goals Washington Co. 2-8 (Allen 0-1, Fiser 0-3, Baker 2-4), Syracuse 7-30 (Howell 1-1, Parks 0-7, Coleman 0-1, Simon 3-8, Sibley 2-9, Burkett 1-4). Rebounds Washington Co. 37 (Walter 11), Syracuse 29 (Howell 12). Turnovers Washington Co. 8, Syracuse 6. Fouls Washington County 7, Syracuse 17. Fouled out Syracuse (Simon).