Bulldogs ambush Volunteer

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR STAFF
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   CHURCH HILL -- It was clear to how Hampton would respond this season after coming off a disappointing performance from last year.
   To start the season it looked as if the Bulldogs might fall back into the same kind of slump, but in recent weeks it's been proven that they can play with anybody in the Watauga Conference.
   On Friday night, Hampton once again knocked off one of conference elite by defeating Volunteer in a 64-58 final.
   "I think the difference has been we have had strong practices recently," said Hampton coach Bud Hazelwood. "We've changed very little from last year, but we're doing a much better job now and are finally starting grow up."
   The Bulldogs defeated Elizabethton earlier this week, and now with victories over the top three teams in the conference, Hampton has become a legitimate contender in the race.
   With Hampton having to battle its way back in the second half, Lucas Honeycutt knocked down a three-point goal with 42 seconds left, giving the Bulldogs the edge they needed down the stretch.
   The Bulldogs were strong from the perimeter all night long, as Travis Smith nailed four three-pointers on the night and finishing with 20 points as Hampton's leading scorer.
   Two of his three-point goals came in the first period, giving the Bulldogs a 13-11 advantage.
   Shane Campbell came off the bench to score the first three goals from the floor for Hampton during the second quarter.
   "We came in at halftime down and knew we had to step it up," said Campbell. "We've always considered ourselves to be one of the better teams and now we're finally playing like it."
   The contest remained close until Volunteer went on a 7-0 run at the end of the half, which gave them a 31-23 lead at halftime.
   Jacob Frazier sparked the Falcons through the third quarter, leading the way with 12 of his 18 points on the night, but a scrappy Bulldog bunch managed to grab the lead before the period ended.
   A drive down the lane and bucket by Jacob Culler gave Hampton a 45-44 lead heading into the final period, and a foul on Charles Lindholm, which became his fourth, gave the Bulldogs plenty of confidence with seven and a half minutes left.
   Hampton took a six-point lead with four minutes left, as Smith drained a three-point goal.
   The Falcons stormed back when Lindholm re-entered the contest, as he scored nine unanswered points -- he finished with the night with 23 -- to give Volunteer a 55-54 advantage with 2:25 left in regulation.
   The game was tied with under a minute to go, and a three-point attempt from Smith to take the lead was rejected by Jay Hughes.
   Fortunately for the Bulldogs, they got another chance, with Smith making a pass to Honeycutt out on the wing, where he nailed a three-pointer to put Hampton out in front.
   "I just went with the flow and Smith slung me the pass and I was able to make the shot," said Honeycutt. "We stepped up played hard and were able to put pressure on their guard play."
   With time running out, Lindholm attempted a three-point goal but was off, and Jacob Frazier grabbed the rebound on his way out of bounds.
   Frazier made a heads-up call for asking for a time-out, but the only problem was the Falcons were out of them, which resulted in a technical foul with 4.1 seconds left.
   Smith knocked down both free-throws attempts to seal the victory and give Hampton a much-needed conference win.
   "We've been finding way to win ball games recently, and our young players did a good job of stepping up tonight," said Hazelwood. "When we got down in the first half I told them we didn't have to get the ahead right then, but just not give up, and that's what they did."
   Lady Falcons 49
   Lady Bulldogs 47
   The Lady Bulldogs battled their way to a heart-breaking loss against Volunteer, as missed free throws down the stretch was their demise in a 49-47 final.
   Hampton trailed by as many as seven points in the final quarter, and solid shooting from outside almost enabled them the comeback.
   "We shot terrible for a while, and then in the second half we finally started coming on," said Lady Bulldog coach Leslie Campbell. "Free throws hurt us -- we couldn't seem to knock any of them down toward the end of the game."
   A three-point goal from Joy Gardner in the first period gave the Bulldogs a 9-3 advantage in the first three minutes of the contest.
   Volunteer came back to pull within two at the end of the first period, and a free-throw from Kayla Beverly tied the contest at 13-13 with 7:05 left in the half.
   The Falcons went on an 11-0 run midway through the second period to take a 24-15 lead.
   "Our defense let us down there, and we kept on telling them over and over to get back and stop the drive," said Campbell. "We got beat some on the boards also, and that's something we've been trying to learn how to do for the past two years now."
   Hampton responded toward the end of the half to trim the deficit to two points, after Heather Chambers cut down low and scored off a pass from Gardner.
   The Bulldogs trailed 25-23 at halftime, and during the third period they were never able to take the lead, but they did keep it close throughout, trailing 37-33 heading into the fourth.
   A couple of three-point goals from Lacey Oliver helped the Bulldogs grab their first lead of the second half, with 4:38 left in regulation.
   Jacklyn Talbort hit a shot inside the paint to put the Falcons back out in front, but Gardner responded for Hampton by driving the length of the floor to make it 47-46 in favor of the Bulldogs.
   Stevie Caldwell sank two free throws with 21.8 seconds left to put Volunteer back out in front, while Hampton had a couple of chances to get the win or tie.
   Gardner made a drive to draw the one-and-one at the line, and after a miss Hampton still had a chance by grabbing the rebound.
   "Foul shooting is what cost us tonight, and if you have opportunities at them then they can make you or break you," said Gardner.
   Going for the win, Lauren Pitman came up short on her baseline jumper attempt, as Volunteer escaped with a close two-point victory.
   Hampton had three scorers in double-digits, with Gardner scoring 14 points, Pitman pouring in 12, and Oliver adding 11 points with three three-point goals.
   "We need to stress rebounding and foul shooting in practice. Both of them really hurt us tonight," said Gardner.