Golden Raiders upend Bulldogs in tight contest

By Jeff Birchfield

   KINGSPORT -- A good piece of advice to the Hampton Bulldog basketball team is listen to your coach. When the Bulldogs followed those words they were successful, but other times led to a 66-61 loss to the Sullivan North Golden Raiders Tuesday night.
   Case in point. With the Bulldogs down by three with less than a minute to go, Hampton coach Bud Hazelwood pleaded with his team to work the ball inside for a lay-up. Instead they shot the ball behind the three-point line, failing to convert on any shots.
   "A rebound with 40 seconds to go, I didn't want a three," said Hazelwood. "I wanted the kids to go inside, because they hadn't been stopping us inside. We shot two threes. I guess the kids got excited.
   "North comes at you for 32 minutes relentlessly, and I guess it eventually got to us. We had a five-point lead, but couldn't take it out."
   Earlier in the game, with North's defensive press getting the best of the Bulldogs, Hazelwood told his team to switch to a 2-1-2 offense.
   The remedy worked. On one sequence Jacob Culler broke the press throwing a wide-open pass to Jordan Honeycutt for an easy lay-up.
   Apparently, the 'Dogs had been listening to Hazelwood as they exited the locker room to start the game. Hampton jumped out to an early 12-2 lead with three scores coming from Adam Miller and two from Honeycutt.
   A couple of baskets by C.J. Minnick helped North (6-7 in the Watauga Conference, 13-11 overall) close within four at the end of the quarter.
   North continued the comeback in the second quarter, tying the game on three different occasions, the first time courtesy of an Aaron Hartley free throw. The last two ties were results of treys by Minnick and C.J. Hackler.
   A shot by Chris Frazier finally put North ahead, with the Raiders taking a 28-24 lead into the half.
   Miller powered Hampton back in the third quarter, scoring 12 points. Good news for the boys in blue was a 42-41 lead at the end of the third. Offsetting bad news was Miller was deep in foul trouble with four fouls.
   With Miller on the pine early in the fourth, others stepped up including Honeycutt, who end up with a team high 22 points. Alex Ingram also answered the call making three crucial scores, while Lucas Honeycutt and Travis Smith each hit a pair of free throws that swapped leads back to Hampton.
   On the opposite side, Dammion Thomas and Minnick refused to let North falter. The two accounted for 21 of North's 25 points in the final period.
   Overall, Minnick led the Raiders with 23 points. Thomas added 22 points and was a thorn in Hampton's side driving through the defense. Hackler also added 12 points for North.
   For the Bulldogs (5-7, 8-15), Miller scored 20 as the tandem of he and Jordan Honeycutt posted two-thirds of the offense. Zac Trivette and Ingram each had five, with Smith scoring four.
   "Our big men played well," said Hazelwood. "Jordan is coming on really strong and Adam has been steady for us all year. Lucas Honeycutt did a great job bringing the ball up the floor. In the end, we just came up a little short."
   Despite the win, North coach Ty Randolph found plenty of areas where he felt his team must improve on before tournament time.
   "I think our team's wheels are spinning in a circle," said Randolph. "It's time for us to put it in gear and go. It's killing me. They tell me to teach patience, but they have to learn and go with it.
   "I give Minnick and Thomas credit as players knowing when to step up. A big thing we talk about is team. Each player has to help each player."
   One trait you won't hear Randolph criticize is the team's attitude. With the early deficit, it would have been easy for North to have given up.
   "As a young team we are still playing in spurts," said Randolph. "But heart has never been a big thing. They are young men that have heart. They just have to learn to play the game for 32 minutes."