SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — Chris Dowe may not start for Bellarmine, but when it’s time for him to take his game to another level, this guard is ready to respond.
He did it again Saturday, this time in the NCAA Division II national championship game at the MassMutual Center, hitting a clutch shot when his team needed one badly.
The No. 2 Knights were clinging to a one point lead and Dowe drove toward the basket, pulled up from a few feet away and knocked down a jumper.
Bellarmine led 68-65 at that point and would go on to win the title, its first in school history, with a 71-68 victory. For Dowe, who played well throughout the Elite Eight, it was just another day in the gym.
“We tried to run a play, but it broke down and I figured I could go one-on-one with my man,” Dowe said. “They were taking charges all day, so I pulled up for a shot and got a great bounce on it.”
Dowe finished with 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting and was one of the primary reasons the Knights (33-2) were able to celebrate their school’s first championship.
He hit two treys in the win, his second putting the Knights in front 42-40 with under two minutes to play in the half. The Knights took a 47-43 lead into halftime and held off several rally attempts by the Seasiders in the second half.
Bellarmine head coach Scott Davenport wasn’t surprised that Dowe delivered under pressure against the Seasiders (22-9).
“It typifies the type of player Chris has been all year,” Davenport said. “He has phenomenal athletic ability and has been making plays all year. He has worked hard to not only become a better player, but also a better person.
Dowe only averaged 7.8 points per game last season but took his game up a notch this year, raising his scoring average to 13.4.
He came into the national final shooting 56.7 percent from the field and had hit 32 shots from beyond the arc. He also came in with 64 assists and 32 steals.
Dowe, who seems to raise the energy level of the team when he is on the floor, has worked hard to get to where he is today. But his time in the gym isn’t the only key to his success.
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“I watch a lot of basketball, both college and NBA, and I look at how the great sixth men play. I try to see what makes them great players. You can learn a lot from watching them and I feel like it’s made me a better basketball player.”
Dowe still has two years of eligibility left and there is no question that winning a national championship will drive him to work even harder next season. He was a third-team All Great Lakes Valley Conference selection this season and played in all 35 games for the Knights.
With five seniors graduating, Dowe realizes he will be expected to step into more of a leadership role.
“Winning a championship feels so good, but I know we will have to work even harder next year,” Dowe said. “We will have to use this experience to push the younger guys and teach them about what it takes to play at the level you need to play at to be a champion.”