Bulldogs take it to Cougars

By Matt Hill

   Cougars might be able to outrun bulldogs, but on Friday night they couldn't outscore them.
   The Hampton Bulldogs played a near-perfect game en route to upsetting the Sullivan Central Cougars 62-46 Friday night at Van-Huss-White Gym.
   Sullivan Central's run-and-gun style causes most teams problems, but it played right into Hampton's hands on this night.
   "That's sort of our style, too," Hampton head coach Jerry White said. "We like to push it up and down the floor, and play about eight people. But I thought we played our defense very well, and I thought we got on the boards with them pretty good."
   Another key to the Hampton victory was breaking Sullivan Central's tough pressure defense.
   "We broke the press," White said. "We turned it over two or three times, but after we adjusted to it I thought we did pretty well against them."
   The Bulldogs came out looking like the Hampton of old in this one. They certainly didn't come out intimidated by one of the Watauga Conference's preseason favorites, as the Bulldogs led at halftime 32-26.
   "I think these kids have got the desire," White said. "We've lost four or five close games that we could very well have won. But as long as they give me all they've got like they did tonight, that's all you can ask of them."
   The Bulldogs certainly gave it all they had in the second half.
   Hampton was only leading 36-32 early in the third quarter when things really started going the Bulldogs' way. Hampton went on an 8-0 run to push its lead out to 44-32 with 1:06 left.
   "We started out good," White said about the second half. "Then we went into little spell, but we adjusted after that. Then it kind of built up."
   Sullivan Central cut Hampton's lead to 49-40 with 5:30 to go in the game, but couldn't get any closer. Hampton outscored Sullivan Central 10-3 during the next three minutes, which pretty much put the game out of reach.
   White thought Matthew Campbell played a big part in the Hampton upset Friday night. He had 11 points, but dominated inside.
   "He really got on the boards, and got us some putbacks," White said.
   Another player that was on the money for Hampton was Ryan Deskins. He led all scorers with 16 points.
   "He scored several points, and could have had more," White said. "He missed two or three easy shots that he usually makes, but Central is intimidating. They blocked some of our shots, but it didn't seem to bother us."
   Deskins knew that the Cougars were going to be tough, and that the Bulldogs had to play their game to beat them.
   "We knew they were pretty good," Deskins said. "We knew we had to get on the boards and stuff. They beat Unaka by 41, so we knew we had to play our game and rebound. We knew if we played our game, we would beat them."
   Central had its opportunities in this one, as it had several open shots. But the shots just weren't falling for a team that scored 100 points in a game earlier in the season.
   "They missed some open shots," White said. "I'm sure both teams hope it's our defense causing that. They did miss some pretty good shots, but I guess we did, too."
   John Lesueur topped Central with 11 points, while Josh Crain had 10. Hampton's Zack Ensor scored 11, and Jeremy Hall netted 10 to add to the Bulldog attack.
   The Bulldogs improve to 10-6, and 3-1 in the Watauga Conference with the win. The victory also shows that the Bulldogs are a force to be reckoned with in this league.
   This win is very big for Hampton when you consider the classifications these two schools played in last year. Hampton was playing in Class A, while Sullivan Central was being competitive in Class AAA with the likes of Science Hill and Dobyns-Bennett.
   "It's a big win for us," White said. "We beat a former AAA school, and Central's got a good ball club. They're still going to be in the thick of things."
   Hampton will be back on the hardwood Tuesday against Volunteer.