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First Baptist falls in semis of new tourney

Four seniors, Pete Twisdale, Aaron Cockrell, D.J. Daniels and Blake Farrenkopf, played their last basketball game for First Baptist Christian Thursday night, but even in their finale, they were a part of something new.

First Baptist and seven more small private schools, with six squads in the varsity boys tournament and six schools in the varsity girls bracket, have formed the Seven Cities Athletic Conference and the inaugural tournaments were played this week at Liberty Baptist Church.

In Thursday’s semifinal round, Gateway Christian defeated First Baptist 74-52, but it was a contest with more twists and turns than a 22-point final margin suggests.

No. 3 First Baptist advanced through the first round Tuesday with a 72-28 win over Veritas to set up the game with No. 2 Gateway.

Gateway got out to a huge start, a 17-4 lead to the first five minutes. Not only did the Gateway Crusaders get a big lead over the First Baptist Crusaders, Gateway put First Baptist’s top scorer, Twisdale, in serious foul trouble with three fouls in the first quarter.

Three Gateway players hit three-pointers in the opening run and Gateway’s outside shooting was sharp for most of the night. Gateway led 23-8 after a quarter, but First Baptist worked its way back into the game in the second period.

Twisdale returned to the court a couple minutes later and added back-to-back fast break baskets with one off a steal and the next off a rebound and coast-to-coast drive.

Cockrell scored the next two First Baptist baskets and Wes Hughes scored after grabbing an offensive rebound to draw First Baptist within 25-20.

Twisdale picked up his fourth foul with 1:42 left in the first half, so First Baptist was still in trouble in that category. On the other hand, considering the first few minutes, trailing 36-30 at halftime was a good spot for First Baptist to be in.

First Baptist’s rally resumed to start the third period. Cockrell sparked his team right away with a rebound and put-back for one hoop and a hook shot in the middle of the paint next time down to cut Gateway’s lead to two.

Twisdale hit a turnaround jumper near the foul line and Colby Toler made it an 8-0 run and a 38-36 First Baptist lead with an offensive board and a lay-up.

Gateway’s excellent offensive play returned and carried the visiting Crusaders. Another Gateway three-pointer capped a 12-2 run and put Gateway ahead 50-40 with 1:57 left in the third period. Gateway led by double digits the rest of the way.

Despite having four fouls for the whole second half, and being on the court for all but a couple minutes of it, Twisdale didn’t foul out and finished with 22 points and eight rebounds.

Cockrell had 14 points and 14 rebounds. Toler added seven points and 16 rebounds.

“Our seniors, they set the tone for the team and worked hard in practices and in games,” First Baptist head coach Lee Cross said.

“This is just a good group of guys. If I could create the character of guys a coach would like to coach, it would be these guys,” Cross said.