Sullivan Central stifles Hampton

By Travis Brown

STAR Staff

   The Hampton Bulldogs are still searching for answers this basketball season, as the winning formula has evaded both varsity squads thus far. Friday night was no exception as the Sullivan Central Cougars took a pair of W's from the struggling 'Dogs.
   The Lady Bulldogs were hoping to repeat an early-season performance in which they bested the Cougars on their home floor, but second-half struggles would be their undoing 59-51.
   Hampton got off to a slow start in the first period, as they trailed 12-5 with 1:41 remaining in the quarter. After a time-out the Dogs put together a pair of three-point plays to kickstart the offensive production.
   Trailing by three points heading into the second period, the Lady Bulldogs put together a fine offensive performance to take the lead. Going 12-14 from the foul line and receiving 11 points from Joy Gardner helped the Dogs take a 34-30 lead heading into the half.
   Bulldog head coach Leslie Campbell was pleased with the first-half execution.
   "We played hard the first two quarters," Campbell said. "We've played well in spurts this season."
   The second half saw different teams take the floor, and the change of circumstances did not bode well for the Dogs.
   The Bulldogs maintained a small lead at the end of the third quarter despite a sharp drop off on the offensive end. Solid defensive efforts by both teams set the stage for what looked to be an exciting fourth period of play.
   The final stanza did not live up to expectations, as the Cougars went on a 6-0 run in the initial moments of the quarter on their way to a convincing comeback victory.
   Kristi Clark hit a clutch three in the waning seconds of the game but it was too little too late as the 'Dogs would falter, 58-51.
   After the contest Campbell was still trying to find the solution to a phantom problem.
   "We have yet to play four quarters this season," Campbell said. "We've shown that we're capable but I just don't have an answer for the way we play sometimes."
   Gardner paced the Lady 'Dogs with 13 points, followed by Lauren Pittman, who scored 12. Lindsay Harsh chipped in nine.
   Central got 18 points from Beth Shelton, 14 from Kristi Moody and 10 out of Kayla Vaughn.
   The boys matchup pitted a Hampton team still searching for identity against a well-conditioned Cougar team that has aspirations for tournament success.
   Bulldog head coach Bud Hazelwood remained upbeat about playing tough opponents.
   "Any time you play top talent, if you compete you learn from it," he said.
   Hampton would indeed compete in the first half, but the Bulldogs were overwhelmed in the second half and fell by a 69-49 tally.
   The big key for Central was foul shooting as throughout the contest the accurate field-goal shooting that the Cougars have relied upon all season was not up to par.
   Instead, they focused on dribble penetration and getting points from the foul line. It worked, as they shot 26 of 30 from the free stripe.
   The first half would be a great matchup, as Hampton countered the Cougar talent with great hustle and determination.
   Trailing by six after the first period, the Bulldogs surged halfway through the second period and threatened to take the lead. The Cougars responded with a 6-0 run to silence the threat.
   Hampton would then receive five unanswered points from Jacob Culler, and trailed at halftime 34-28.
   The third quarter, though, was all downhill for Hampton as it was outscored 20-6, and John LeSueur's 26-point effort for Central was too much to overcome as the Bulldogs fell.
   After the contest Hazelwood remarked on the Cougar's impressive team.
   "We played good physical defense, but they have a great offensive ball team," Hazelwood said. "We were in the game, but that LeSueur kid, he's a good player."
   Josh O'Dell contributed 16 points for the Cougars while Matt Dunford netted 10. Culler was tops for the Bulldogs with 13 points.