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Bulldoggs show early improvement

POSTED: June 18, 2014 12:00 p.m.
Adam Wynn/Barrow County News

Winder-Barrow lost Tuesday's first game to North Oconee, but they were able to pull it together for the evening game against Hebron Christian Academy, one of coach Ron Garren's former schools.

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Winder-Barrow’s men’s basketball team made a 3-point shot late in its second game Tuesday night to give the Bulldoggs a 61-58 victory over Hebron Christian and their first victory of this week’s summer league tournament.

“We played well. We shot the ball well,” Winder-Barrow varsity men’s basketball coach Ron Garren said after Tuesday night’s game.

Hebron Christian Academy is just one of Garren’s many former teams, and that was part of the fun of getting to play the Class-A Lions in the summer series. 

“Someone made the comment to me the other day, actually, and asked, ‘Do you know everybody?’ I said, ‘Well when you’ve been around as long as I have, the head coach at Jackson County played for me, the head coach at Hebron coached for me, the head coach at Oglethorpe was on my staff and the coach at Clarkston was on my staff,” Garren listed.

“It’s just really nice to see people that I had an influence on who have become successful coaches,” Garren added. “Will Cantrell at Hebron is a top-notch coach, and I was very fortunate to have him on my staff for three years. He is and will continue to be one of the best coaches in the area for years to come.”

Coach Ron Garren’s team was a bit short-handed in Tuesday’s first game and, as the coach said, “sort of ran out of gas” in a 61-46 loss to North Oconee.

The Bulldoggs scored only nine points in the second half and were outscored 13-0 over the last 7:32 of the contest after pulling within two points.

Brandon Hayes, one of the Doggs’ big men, did not play against North Oconee, but he was able to play some valuable minutes against Hebron Christian and that made a difference, according to Garren.

“That’s just one part of summer that you have to deal with,” Garren said of the various injuries, as he was missing four players for separate medical concerns, “but once next year rolls around…we’re actually missing four guys who could easily start for us next year.

“The depth kind of has wore us down, but we’ve got some kids getting some valuable experience.”

Winder-Barrow lost to East Hall on Monday night after a buzzer-beater was disallowed and later fell to hot-shooting Jefferson.

“We played pretty well in both games,” Garren said.

The tournament, which is being held at Winder-Barrow, Apalachee and Monroe Area, was to have continued Wednesday at all three locations and will wind up Thursday.  There are 16 teams in the tournament.

Unofficially, Andre Jackson led the Bulldoggs against North Oconee with 17 points and six rebounds.

Dresden Williams added eight points and Bradyn Randall contributed seven.

Teams played two 20-minute halves in the summer league games with the clock running constantly except during time outs and in the last minute of each half.

Winder-Barrow fell behind by as much as six points in the early going but finally went ahead on a basket by Jackson with 8:38 left in the first half.

The lead changed hands eight times from that point until intermission, but the Doggs maintained a narrow lead for most of that time.

The Titans opened the second half on a 10-0 run, but Williams keyed an 8-0 spurt by the Bulldoggs to tie the game at 44-all with 11:07 left in the game.

North Oconee outgunned the Doggs 17-2 the rest of the way, including the final 13-0 surge to finish the contest.

Despite their struggles in the summer league, Garren believes that Winder-Barrow is still moving in a positive direction and will be ready for the season come November.

“We have an opportunity to be a lot better than we were this past year,” Garren admitted. “I’m pleased with where we are and the direction that we’re headed.”

Primarily, the Doggs have benefited from actually getting to work together as a team in the summer offseason, as last year’s crew did not have a coach until far too late. With Garren coming back from his first season back at Winder-Barrow, he believes that the summer and the season ahead holds good things for Bulldogg hoops.

“First of all, our kids are just a year older, but more importantly we’re going to go into the preseason with an idea of what we’re trying to do,” Garren explained. “We were just so behind last year, we were going into late December working on things that you’re really not supposed to work on once the season gets going.

“This summer is going to be so valuable to us from the standpoint of kids getting to play and getting to play at different positions and for us to evaluate them,” Garren added. “It’s nice to win no matter whether it’s summer or the season, but we like the opportunities that summer has given us to grow our team, and I feel good about it.”

Winder will play two games Wednesday evening, with a 4 p.m. match against Athens Christian and an 8 p.m. bout with Oconee County, who lost to Apalachee on Tuesday night, before wrapping up there summer on Thursday with two more games.

The first Thursday game will come against AAAAAA opponent Mill Creek at 4 p.m., and the Doggs will conclude their summer games against another AAAAAA team in Dacula. The Doggs have played Dacula once already this summer in a skirmish at Duluth where Winder nearly pulled off the win.

“We took’em to the buzzer last week at Duluth,” Garren said. “They will definitely compete in Class-AAAAAA next year for a state berth. We’re going to kind of play that a little bit differently as far as our rotation goes and we’re going to coach that game like it was a regular season game and give our kids an opportunity to see where we believe their role is going to be as we go into next year against a top-notch team like Dacula.”

Garren’s team had planned on attending a camp at Clemson to end the summer, but NCAA regulations prevent teams from participating in just one day of camp, so Winder-Barrow will forego that experience.

While the four-day tournament did feature some interesting pairings and at least one offseason rivalry match-up in Monday’s Dacula and Mill Creek game, the Bulldoggs were not slated to face their biggest rival as both teams had the privilege of hosting portions of the event. As confident as Garren is in his team’s performance, he took no issue with that particular blessing.

“They’re a very good team,” Garren said of Apalachee. “We’ve got a long way to go before we compete with them.” 



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