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Third time the charm for Flowery Branch against Winder-Barrow

POSTED: February 17, 2014 11:06 a.m.

For the Winder-Barrow men’s basketball team, the chance to face the 23-1, and top seeded, Clarke Central Gladiators represented the opportunity of a lifetime. For a squad that had tallied a record of just 7-18 (2-14 in Region 8-AAAAA), knocking off the region’s pace-setter in the opening round of the tournament would potentially make its season – so to speak.

But first they had to dispose of the Flowery Branch Falcons (now 4-20, 2-16 in Region 8-AAAAA)…in a play-in game. Considering the Bulldoggs went 2-0 against the Falcons during the regular season, many perceived the contest to be a foregone conclusion in favor of the Doggs.

Those that did are undoubtedly re-thinking those lottery numbers they played today.

In what ended up being a closely contested tilt, the Bulldogs were put away by a score of 50-46. You have to wonder if complacency played a part in the loss.

“I really felt like we came out somewhat flat  and sold out on the three-point shot which is not a strength of ours,” head coach Ron Garren declared. “We hit some key shots and had an opportunity to either tie or win the game at the end; we just came up short on that. Give Flowery Branch credit on that.”

 The Falcons also deserve credit for playing an extremely team-oriented game. Guards Jamon Randolph and Dillon Barron scored six and five points respectively, but both were virtually unstoppable with their dribble-drive penetration.

Their ability to make plays for others was unparalleled, and forward Brett Shepherd (13 points) was the primary beneficiary of their unselfish play.

For the Doggs, senior guard Chandon Sullivan (16 points) was a complete beast. It seems as though the only person that could stop him was a referee – which happened towards the end of the game when he forced to spend some time on the bench for “talking too much.”

“I assume he must’ve said something because they kept talking,” Garren quipped. “He’s a great kid, he was probably frustrated. It’s just like I told him in the locker room: ‘We were down by two, and you got the shot that could’ve tied the game. I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way’.”

What Garren did want differently was a stronger performance from his future star, center Brandon Hayes. The 6’5” athletic marvel, who contributed 14 points in the prior matchup, was held to only two points and generally looked frustrated the entire contest.

Despite the discernable size difference on the inside, Winder-Barrow walked away with very little success in the paint. Most of it due to poor entry passes into the post.

“It was somewhat self-inflicted. We really wanted to take advantage of our size, and they did a great job of defending,” Garren said. “But I don’t think we did a real good job of being patient enough to take advantage of it.”

 

But even with a more player-centric approach to the game, the contest wasn’t decided until the closing moments. With 1:35 remaining, the incident between an official and Sullivan occurred which seem to spark the Doggs. They promptly cut the deficit to five (46-41) with just over a minute to go.

A costly turnover by sophomore point guard C.C. Green was eradicated after freshman Bryson Hamilton hit a three with 54 seconds until the buzzer – to run the score to 47-45 in favor of the Falcons.  An ensuing turnover by Flowery Branch set up the aforementioned play with Sullivan, who saw his shot rim out.

After both teams traded fouls, with Flowery Branch benefiting from being in the double-bonus situation, the Doggs were unable to mount any offense, thus falling just short.

The Branch now has a date with the Gladiators this evening at Apalachee High School while the Bulldoggs are left to pick up the pieces. With Sullivan graduating, and moving on to play football at Georgia State University, the Doggs will have to replace his aggressiveness, moxie and poise.

And they have plenty of candidates to do so.

Once they put everything together, the guard combination of Hamilton and Green will be tough for anyone to deal with. Hamilton is a smooth player with a slick mid-range game. He can put the ball on the floor and dial it up from deep.

Green is uber-fast with great handles. He plays hard on defense and will cause problems with opposing point guards on a game-by-game basis.

But it’s Hayes who has the brightest future.

His length, meshed with his jumping ability, just can’t be taught. He just needs to put on some muscle which is usually typical with young players his height.

“We feel good about who we have coming back,” intimated coach Garren. “It’s a tough league; we’ll have a full summer. I was hired in late July so we had no summer work. Basically we were having tryouts at the end of football season. I kind of felt like we were behind the eight ball as far as preparation,” Garren continued.

“I told the kids in the locker room we had several opportunities to hang our heads and quit, but we never did that. I’m proud of our effort.”

 

COMMENTS

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1 comment
phunter6: February 18, 2014 10:20 p.m.

Great article Murf, I felt like I was at the game! Hope to read more from you in the future!



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