Bulldogs take Region 4 title; will host Temple in sub-state game Monday



WATERTOWN-Tyler Edwards’ free throw with 9.3 seconds left provided the eventual winning point in the Clay County Bulldogs’ 32-31 win over district foe Clarkrange in the Region 4-A final here Thursday night.

The nerve-racking win by the Dawgs sets up a sub-state clash in Celina on Monday, as they will host old rival Temple, with the winner advancing to the state tourney week after next in Murfreesboro. Temple lost 78-71 Thursday night to Grace Baptist, who will host Clarkrange in another sub-state matchup on Monday.

To say points were at a premium in the region final between the Dawgs and Buffaloes would be an understatement. Only twice in the game did either team crack double figures in scoring in a quarter. The Bulldogs did it in the first, as they took a 10-6 lead, and the Buffaloes did it in the third with a dozen points, grabbing a 25-23 lead on a long three-pointer at the buzzer. 

The Bulldogs jumped to an early 10-4 lead on a three-pointer and another bucket by Edwards, a three by Nolan Dale (named region tourney MVP) and a bucket by Scott Brown. From that point on, though, the points came much tougher for the Dawgs. They scored only five points over the next 13 minutes of the game, as the Buffaloes took a 17-15 lead at the 4:40 mark of the third quarter. Clay County had led 15-13 at intermission on another bucket by Brown at the 1:32 mark of the second quarter.

Clay County retook the lead at 21-19 in the third quarter on a basket by Nathan Knight, but the Buffaloes hit a couple of threes in the final minute to grab the two-point lead after three quarters. 

The two teams combined for only 15 points in the final eight minutes, but there was no lack of drama. Shawn Garrett scored all six of his points in the first six minutes of the final quarter, and the Bulldogs held a 31-29 lead with just over two minutes left. Clarkrange had led 29-25 at one point before CCHS coach Rob Edwards called a timeout and the Dawgs scored six straight. 

Clarkrange’s Brandon Upchurch tied the game at 31 on a short jumper with 1:58 left. The final two minutes saw a lot more turnovers, loose balls and flying bodies than it did points. In fact, Edwards’ winning free throw was the only point scored the rest of the way. The Buffaloes had the ball and called a timeout with 1:18 left and appeared to be holding the ball for the final shot. The teams swapped turnovers in a span of about five seconds, and the Buffaloes had the ball back at the 33-second mark. With 22.7 seconds left, the Dawgs were whistled for a foul, only the fourth combined foul of the half between the two teams. The Dawgs forced a turnover and grabbed a steal on the ensuing inbounds pass. They held the ball for a few seconds, and called a timeout. 

Edwards received the inbounds pass, drove to the basket and was fouled in the act of shooting with 9.3 seconds left. Clarkrange called a timeout, and when play resumed, Edwards missed the first free throw, but canned the second. The Bulldogs forced a traveling call after the inbounds pass and retook possession with 8.5 seconds left. The Buffaloes had fouls to give and made a quick one as the Dawgs threw the ball in. The Buffaloes forced a travel call on the Dawgs on the next inbounds, with 6.1 seconds left, giving Clarkrange the ball and a chance to win.

The Bulldogs went for a steal and committed a foul as the inbounds plays just kept piling up. On the next one, a Buffalo player had the ball slapped loose, and the ball and a mass of bodies went flying across the court. In those final few seconds, Clarkrange could never launch a shot, and the Bulldogs won another region crown for coach Edwards.  

The Bulldogs improved to 27-6 with the win. Monday’s sub-state matchup with Temple will pit the state’s eighth and ninth-ranked teams, according to the Coach T website ratings.

Three other Bulldogs–Nathan Knight, Shawn Garrett and Scott Brown, joined Dale on the all-tournament team. 

DAWGS (32)-Edwards 6, Dale 8, Brown 8, Garrett 6, Knight 4.

Bulldogs Nathan Knight, Shawn Garrett, Scott Brown and Nolan Dale were named to the all-region tournament team Thursday night.

Bulldogs Nathan Knight, Shawn Garrett, Scott Brown and Nolan Dale (MVP) were named to the all-region tournament team Thursday night.