Determined 'Dogs surprise Cougars

By Kim Richardson
STAR Correspondent
Several in the audience Tuesday night at Hampton High School were afraid their Bulldogs simply couldn't compete with their heavily-favored guests: The Cougars of Sullivan Central.
When the Cougars scored the game's first six points, while the Bulldogs were throwing up bricks, that forlornly forecast seemed fitting to the quieted Hampton fans.
However the Bulldogs fought the good fight, had some success with their man and zone presses, and responded to the nothing-to-six start by scoring seven points unanswered, en route to a 61-58 Watauga Conference win.
Surprisingly Hampton would stay competitive through the remainder of the first to lead 14 - 13.
The second period was more of the same; A basket by Central; a response by the Bulldogs. But the Bulldogs seemed to lack the necessary confidence to compete with the Cougars, and rather than a balanced offense, the 'Dogs were content to shoot from long range, rattling miss after miss. 
Meanwhile Central would close the first half with a two-minute barrage, breaking free from a 23-23 tie, and scored the final nine points of the half, leaving the Bulldogs on the verge of a blowout.
"Sometimes you have to be willing to lose, in order to win -- that's what I told them at halftime," stated the Bulldogs' upbeat head coach, Bud Hazelwood. "We weren't being aggressive. We needed to be aggressive; patient, but aggressive. We were relying too much on the three, and we were hesitant against their big post players." 
Coach Hazelwood continued: "I told the boys that they had to be willing to lose; to take chances inside, and above all, they had to contest every shot, every rebound."
The Bulldogs responded, but not immediately. The third saw a sluggish offensive performance by Hampton, but it managed with the improved post play of Adam Miller and Shane Campbell. And by quarter's end, the Bulldogs saw a dim light at the end of the tunnel, to the tune of a six-point deficit.
The quarter ended with Central still in command, but Hampton had toughened defensively, were playing a much more determined board game, both offensively and defensively, and trailed by only by a six point, 44 - 38 margin.
The bigger Cougar post players weren't to be denied, and still got the best of the determined Miller, Jordan Honeycutt and Campbell, both on the boards, and via the blocked shot. But for every block or rebound Hampton responded with a rebound of its own, plus a couple key putbacks, and a short-range jumper.  After the first 3:10 of the final quarter, Hampton had managed to tie the game at 48.
The well-coached Cougars would again respond with a five point run, only to see the determined Bulldogs respond with five to again tie the game at 53 apiece at the 2:34 mark. 
Central attempted to push the ball inside against the smaller Hampton post players, but after a short miss, then a putback attempt, then another tip, Hampton's Zack Trivett would get the rebound, and was fouled.  Trivett hit both free-throws to give Hampton the lead, a lead it would not relinquish. 
After another Central miss and a Hampton rebound, Trivett was again be fouled, and he responded to the high-pressure situation by sinking two more points.
With time dwindling down the Sullivan Countians hit a three, but on their next possession, after Hampton missed two free-throws, Central rushed, and missed yet another jumper. Miller rebounded and passed the ball to Lucas Honeycutt, who, with only 13 seconds remaining, made two fouls shots.
Central scored a final basket with 1.8 seconds remaining, but too little, too late.