Cougars survive Bulldogs

Photo by Dave Boyd
Hampton's Lucas Honeycutt is tightly defended by the Cougar's Daniel Skelton.

By Wes Holtsclaw

   BLOUNTVILLE--If anybody's looking for a darkhorse before the District 1-AA tournament, look no further than the Hampton Bulldogs.
   In a tough road atmosphere at Sullivan Central, the Bulldogs held a lead and almost came away with the big road victory over one of the Watauga Conference's top units.
   Hampton led by four as time wound down in the fourth quarter, but after a few breaks and shots didn't go its way, Central came back.
   The Cougars hit some crucial free throws late with the Bulldog misses to pull out a 73-70 victory at the Cougar Cage.
   "A shot here, a shot there; a rebound here, a rebound there; a break here or a break there and we win the game," said Hampton coach Bud Hazelwood. "The first thing I said was, 'I don't want to see them go out of here with their heads down.'"
   Hampton and Central combined for 19 three-pointers, including 13 from the 'Dogs in the contest.
   "We battled what is supposed to be the best team in the conference on their home floor down to the wire," Hazelwood said. "We've come a long way and we're not giving up yet."
   Despite two technicals, including a traditional technical where every Central student in attendance threw something on the court in play, Central hung on close enough to pull it out.
   "We had chances to fold three or four different times as did Central," said Hazelwood. "It was just two teams going at it hard and wanting to win. This is what high school ball's all about. Both teams played well. This conference is so crazy, everybody in it has a shot. This one hurt, but we're not out of it."
   The first quarter of play was a knock-down, drag-out, shoot-out.
   Hampton trailed 8-0, but pulled into the lead after three straight treys from Adam Miller.
   Central had big inside buckets from Josh O'Dell and Joe Brown, plus treys from Tyler Harkley and Brown, but it wasn't enough to override the 'Dogs.
   Travis Smith and Zac Trivett contributed three more treys combined to lead Hampton to a 24-23 lead into the second quarter.
   Brown and Jonathan Toler pulled out five points apiece for the Cougars to help them tie the game at 40 going into the second half.
   Travis Smith, Lucas Arwood and Shane Campbell lit up the three-ball for the 'Dogs, with another four combined treys to keep the game intact.
   Hampton entered the fourth quarter with a six-point lead after a solid shooting effort from Jordan Honeycutt and Miller despite a pair of buckets apiece from Central's Matt Dunford and Daniel Skelton.
   Hampton held onto things in the fourth quarter, with a technical from the Central bench giving them a four-point edge.
   However, Brown hit a trey and Harkley came up with a big bucket to put Central on top by three. Hampton made it a one-point game with 15.3 seconds left, but the Cougars made their free throws and held on to win.
   Sullivan Central 55
   Hampton 32
   Something didn't show up for the Hampton Lady Bulldogs Friday night.
   Against a team they defeated by 20 earlier in the season, Hampton couldn't score in the double digits during any quarter and had a tough time offensively against the Lady Cougars.
   The Lady Dogs led once in the first quarter and it went downhill from there.
   Central took a 13-point lead going into the second half and never looked back, cruising to victory.
   "They weren't ready to play from the beginning," said Hampton coach Leslie Campbell. "We're just not playing together right now. We're not doing anything."
   "Central played well, why can't we? We beat them 20 points. It was a big letdown, a big disappointment," she said. "We looked good for awhile (this season) and I thought we were starting to peak. We just dropped off. Maybe they'll pick it up sometime."
   Central took a six-point lead before Hampton came back to take a lead behind a Lacey Oliver trey. However, Sarah Munal and Beth Skelton made some big buckets to give Central a four-point edge into the second quarter.
   Julie LeSueur dropped three buckets in that stanza to give the Lady Cougars a double digit-lead, while Hampton was held to five points.
   Munal led Central in the first half with eight of her game high 13 points.
   The second half was more of the same, with Caitie Munal and Kayla Vaughn lighting it up for Central.
   Hampton got another trey from Oliver and four buckets from Jessica Tolley to turn a 17-point Lady Cougar lead back to 12, but it wasn't enough.
   LeSueur added nine for Central, while Tolley led the Lady 'Dogs with 12.