Bulldog freshmen beaten by Cougars

By Marvin Birchfield

   Hampton's freshman team was able to keep its Monday night contest reasonably close with Sullivan Central, despite a poor performance from the foul line which contributed to a 62-49 loss.
   The Bulldogs hit just five out of 20 from the charity stripe as they fought back on several occasions, which possibly gave them a chance of making the come back.
   "When you go five for 20 from the free-throw line, then it makes it tough, and we've been working on foul shots during practice, but we just couldn't get them to fall tonight," said Hampton coach Wayne Ellis.
   Sullivan Central started the contest with a lot of intensity on defense to cause the Bulldog frontcourt some problems.
   The Cougars opened up with scoring the first six points, and a steal and basket by Josh Bowman made it a 10-3 advantage.
   "We've worked on handling the defensive press, but when you've got a guy running point for his first time ever, then it can become difficult until you learn your position," said Ellis. "We only have three players who played on the eighth-grade team, so we're just a little inexperienced right now."
   A 15-foot jumper by Mike Guy pulled the Bulldogs to within five, but a drive inside the paint from Josh Hughes gave the Cougars a 14-5 lead with just over a minute left in the first period.
   The Bulldogs managed to score at the buzzer, as Jonathan Lyons made a nice drive down the length of the court to cut Central's lead to seven at the end of the first.
   The Cougars came out to strike first in the second period with a basket coming from Hughes off the transition.
   A couple of drives from Lyons pulled the Bulldogs back within five, but Central continued to push the ball up the court with Wes Baker making the lay-up and drawing the foul off the break.
   "We force a lot of turnovers with our defensive pressure, but you've got to give them credit also -- when they did get past it they were usually shooting a lay-up," said Sullivan Central coach Joe McPherson.
   A rebound and putback off a miss from Josh Bowman gave the Cougars a 10-point advantage with 3:15 left in the half.
   Hampton kept it under 10 heading into the locker room after a steal and bucket from Austin Harper in the final minute of the half.
   Sullivan Central captured the first two field-goals of the third period to take a 33-20 lead, but Hampton made a rally by scoring the next eight points as both Lyons and Adam Townsend knocked down the three.
   The Cougars went on a 17-4 run in the final three and a half minutes of the third quarter to stretch out their margin.
   "Some of the players recognized the name of the gym and when we got here I told the boys the story of what I knew about Buck VanHuss and all the others who have tradition here," said McPherson. "I told them they had better come ready to play."
   A three-point goal from the right corner by Matt McCrastrey increased the Cougar lead to 52-34 heading into the final period of play.
   Hampton came out in the fourth, scoring the first five points with a bucket off a rebound from B.J. Irick to cut the deficit to 52-39.
   A jumper from the foul-line by Townsend with 2:53 left brought Hampton to within 10, but this was as close as they came.
   Sullivan Central was able to knocked down some free-throws down the stretch with two coming from Drew Bryant to push the Cougar advantage back to 14 points.
   "This was the first time we had played since the Christmas break, and Hampton threw a lot of different challenges at us and the guys were able to respond," said McPherson. "I just wish we could have been a little more patient with the ball and not have thrown up the three when we had the big lead toward the end."
   Sullivan Central was 16 for 24 from the foul-line, while Hampton struggled throughout by hitting just five on 20 attempts.
   The game ended with a three-point shot at the buzzer by Harper, but it was the Cougars who celebrated the victory at end of regulation.
   Hughes led Sullivan Central in scoring with 14 points on the evening, while Baker poured in 10.
   Townsend led all scores in the contest with 16 points, and Lyons ended with 11 along while Guy added 10.
   "We did a better job with our help defense and not getting beat on the back door, but we still need to work on getting our heads up seeing the whole floor and improve on handling the ball," said Ellis.