First half run, free throws propel the Bulldogs to another tourney title

 

By KEVIN DONALDSON

A strong first half and a steady dose of free throws in the final quarter were big keys to the Clay County Bulldogs’ 50-41 win over Clarkrange in the District 7-A tournament finals on Tuesday night.

The Bulldogs scored 13 points in a row after falling behind 4-0 in the early going to take control of the contest, and fought off two different Buffalo comebacks to wrap up the 7-A title. Nolan Dale was very active offensively in the first two quarters, scoring the first seven points of the game for the Dawgs, and 16 of the team’s 26 points at halftime. He had 11 of the team’s 15 points in the first quarter, as the Dawgs led by six after one.

The lead increased to 26-14 at intermission before the Buffaloes made a big run to get back in the game, scoring the first 10 points of the third quarter to cut the lead to two. Crucial steals and baskets by Nathan Knight and Shawn Garrett stopped the Clarkrange momentum and helped the Bulldogs lead by eight (32-24) at the end of three. Tyler Edwards’ running one-hander at the buzzer gave the Dawgs that cushion heading into the fourth.

The Bulldogs scored 21 points from the free throw line in the contest and the bulk of those came in the final eight minutes. They canned 14 foul shots in the fourth quarter, but hit a streak where they connected on only three of seven. That opened the door for the Buffaloes again, and they cut the lead to three when regular-season MVP Brandon Upchurch drained a long three from the left side to make it 40-37. 

Clay County regained its free throw touch right after that, though. A basket by Garrett, one of only two in the period for the Dawgs, made it 42-27 and Clay County hit eight of 10 the rest of the way from the free throw line (all in the last 1:33 of the game) to put it away.

Dale led all scorers with 21 points, while Garrett added 13.