Jr. Bulldogs reach title tilt of Sweet 16

By Marvin Birchfield

   JOHNSON CITY -- Sometimes it takes a little more than just raw talent to get the job done. The Hampton Jr. Bulldogs found that a lot of heart and hustle pays off during their victory that advances them to the championship round of the Grindstaff-Greystoke Sweet 16 Shootout basketball tournament at Freedom Hall.
   Hampton fought its way back in the second half to push the game into overtime, which saw the Bulldogs pull out a 40-36 final over Church Hill Monday night.
   "We switched a few things up in the second half, and coach "Landon Mullins" was a big help in overtime -- he noticed a couple of things," said Hampton coach Leon Tolley. "He suggested a few things and I listened, but when you've got kids playing like they did tonight, then my job is easy."
   With just 17 seconds left in regulation, Dustin Jaynes sank one of two free-throws to tie the contest and force an extra quarter for the game to be settled.
   In overtime, the Bulldogs grabbed an early four-point advantage and never looked back for the remainder of the period.
   Hampton jumped out to a 10-8 lead after the first period of play by executing the inside play and controlling the boards.
   The Bulldogs enjoyed a 10-2 lead with 1:38 left in the first period, but the Panthers made a run at the end of the quarter off a couple of steals in the front court.
   Church Hill went through a stretch of scoring 12 unanswered points to take a 14-10 lead, after Ray Carpenter made a drive with four minutes left in the half.
   The Panthers headed into the locker room with a 22-16 lead, as their pressure on the Bulldogs guard play was giving Hampton trouble.
   "We worked on their jump trap today, but until you get out in that situation it's tough," said Tolley. "We finally found the right combination and helped out against it."
   After a couple of baskets to cut the deficit to three at the beginning of the third period, the Panthers were able to come away with a 28-21 advantage after Chris Ward and Keith Cradie knocked down shots inside.
   Cradie led the Panthers on the evening in scoring, as he finished with 15 points.
   Hampton made its rally in the fourth period by dominating the boards and generating solid defense, as it allowed just one field goal, which came late in the period.
   "When we come to play we're not bad, and the boys got the position inside on the boards," said Tolley. "This is a great win for our club over such a good athletic team, and this is what we got in this tournament."
   A basket off the rebound from Jaynes plus the foul gave Hampton a chance to tie the game with 1:01 left on the clock.
   "We didn't box out real well. A couple of their guys played tough on the boards, and it just didn't fall for us tonight at the free-throw line," said Church Hill coach Weil Burrow.
   Jaynes missed the shot for the opportunity to tie, but his chances would come once again with a foul off the reach with just :17 seconds left.
   Jaynes hit the first of two free-throws sending the game into overtime at 32-32.
   Both Jaynes and Jared Irick led the Bulldogs on the night by posting 14 points apiece.
   In the extra period of play, the Bulldogs took control from the outset by capturing a bucket down low from Bobby James off a pass from Jaynes.
   Irick managed to come away with a steal to put the Bulldogs up 36-32, but Cradie answered from the Panthers by making a drive inside the paint reducing the advantage.
   Justin Bentley picked up a loose ball with over a minute left in the contest, which he converted at the other end to give Hampton a little breathing room.
   Neither team did a good job at free-throw line, as Hampton hit 10 of 27 while Church Hill went 6 of 16.
   "We missed a lot of free throws at the end of the game and that's what we base our game on getting to the free-throw line," said Marrow. "Give Hampton credit they played tough."
   James was able to sink a couple of foul shots down the stretch and secure the victory for Hampton, which will face Science Hill, a 50-43 winner over John Sevier, in the championship game today.
   "It's a great testament to the kids and how hard they've worked," said Tolley. "We haven't been playing well lately, but they've gutted through it and tonight showed what their made of, and hopefully we have one more game left in us."
   In other action, it was Indian Trail defeating Hunter 43-41, and T.A. Dugger beating John Sevier by a final of 42-26.
   In girls' play, it was Happy Valley over Hampton 35-26, while Cloudland beat University High 23-18.
   Vance will be playing the championship girls game after defeating Unicoi Co. 38-17, and so will Greeneville following a 38-19 victory over Colonial Heights.