Lady 'Dogs outlast Volunteer

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF

   CHURCH HILL--For most of the night, the situation the Hampton girls basketball team was in can be compared to losing your credit card and having somebody else take it. It was very dicey.
   But fortunately for the Lady Bulldogs, a nightmare like this one was avoided.
   Hampton rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit to defeat the Volunteer Lady Falcons 50-43 in an overtime thriller.
   The Lady Bulldogs (10-3 Watauga, 15-8) trailed 23-12 at the break, but slowly cut into
   Volunteer's advantage to set up what was a fantastic finish.
   Hampton head coach Leslie Campbell wasn't very pleased overall, but praised her team for the comeback.
   "I do commend them for that," Campbell said about Hampton's second half rally. "They battled back, and they never gave up. But we struggled."
   It looked like Volunteer (7-5, 14-8) was going to avenge a 70-36 loss that Hampton dished out to the Lady Falcons last month, but the Lady Bulldogs showed in the fourth quarter and during the overtime that they were destined to sweep the season series.
   Hampton's rally started when Kelly Shoun hit a three-pointer at the end of the third quarter that cut Volunteer's lead down to 31-25. The Lady Bulldogs then started the fourth quarter on a 13-4 run to go ahead 38-35 with 2:30 remaining.
   The spurt was keyed by players like Kari Stout and Joy Gardner. Both players had been quiet for most of the game, but really stepped up during this stretch.
   "Joy's been struggling, but she's coming out of it," Campbell said. "The only thing I don't understand is those other ones have stepped up here and there, why don't they do it all the time?"
   Hampton held a 38-37 advantage with 52.8 seconds left in regulation when Stout was fouled. She hit one-out-of-two free-throws to give the Lady Bulldogs a two-point edge going into the final stages.
   Volunteer's Leslie Cunningham missed a three-pointer that would have given the Lady Falcons the lead on their next possession, but they received another chance when Hampton double-dribbled with 33.6 seconds to go.
   Cunningham missed another three-pointer, but Meghan Arnold was there for the putback to tie the contest at 39-39.
   Hampton's Joy Gardner was sent to the foul line with 21 seconds left, but missed a one-and-one. After a long scramble for the loose ball, Hampton recovered it with 5.6 seconds to go.
   Volunteer's Morgan Smith stole the inbounds pass, but then walked to give Hampton one more chance.
   Stout put up a desperation three that missed to send the game into overtime.
   The overtime was a little less dramatic, as Hampton led 44-43 with 2:14 to go. But from that point on the Lady Bulldogs put the clamps on Volunteer's offense, holding the Lady Falcons scoreless in the final 2:45 of overtime.
   Hampton made its foul shots down the stretch, and Cindy Hyatt added a bucket at the buzzer to giver Hampton the seven-point victory.
   "I'm proud of them for the way they came back," Campbell said. "They kept their composure, kept their heads, and kept their cool."
   Campbell thought her team really wanted this one.
   "Like we talked about at halftime, if they wanted it they would do it," Campbell said. "They proved to me right there that they wanted it."
   The Lady Bulldogs were coming off a big win over Cloudland the night before, but just couldn't seem to find that same magic until the final moments.
   "We are not consistent yet," Campbell said. "And I think that's what it boils down to."
   Alison Pierce topped Hampton in scoring with 15, while Stout finished the night with 12 for the Lady 'Dogs.
   Joy Dobbs led Volunteer's cause with 15, with Arnold netting 14 for the Lady Falcons.
   Hampton will be back in action Monday night at Claiborne County.