The Hitchcock Bulldogs utilized an energy-packed third quarter to distance themselves from the Buna Cougars, en route to a 69-56 win in their Region III-3A bi-district playoff game Monday at East Chambers High School.
“We made a few adjustments on offense, changed up the defense a little bit, and it kind of showed,” Hitchcock head coach Chris Jordan said. “It wore them down a little bit.”
Buna ended a close first half where neither team led by more than four points with a circus shot buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Cade Flores (14 points) to take a 31-29 lead into the halftime break. But, after that, the third quarter was all Hitchcock.
“The effort had to change; we weren’t playing with full effort and they were,” Jordan said.
Buna handled Hitchcock’s full-court press in the first half, but the constant pressure began to get to the Cougars, who had nine turnovers in the third quarter after only having five total in the entire first half.
“I told the kids, ‘Hey, in the press, just because we don’t get a steal doesn’t mean the press isn’t working,’” Jordan said. “They got tired. They wore out some.”
The Bulldogs scored eight unanswered points to start the third period, and put an exclamation point on the run with a big block by Davanta Scott (13 points, eight rebounds) leading to a perfect outlet pass to John Scott (game-high 23 points, seven rebounds) for a wide-open layup.
After Buna cut Hitchcock’s lead to 39-34 midway through the quarter, the Bulldogs ended the period on 12-4 run, aided by the offensive rebounding of Earnest Triplett (16 points, game-high 12 rebounds) and a rare four-point play converted by Davanta Scott that got the run started. The Bulldogs ended the quarter in style, with Tyger Turner (six points, 10 rebounds) hauling in a defensive rebound and tossing a long outlet pass to John Scott for a lay-in.
Buna cut the Hitchcock lead to as close as eight points at two different points of the fourth quarter, but strong free throw shooting from Travonte Jones (11 points) and John Scott and a persistent up-tempo offense helped keep the Cougars at bay.
Attacking the basket more in the second half paid dividends, as the Bulldogs drew foul after foul on Buna, and were already in the bonus midway through the third quarter.
“We did not shoot well, so you just have to get to the rim,” Jordan said. “We got in the bonus pretty quick.”
The Bulldogs trailed for the majority of the first half. Behind, 17-13 in the first quarter, Hitchcock went on a 6-0 run that extended to the first made basket of the second quarter. But, Buna answered with a 6-0 run of its own and held a lead until a Triplett basket late in the second quarter gave the Bulldogs a 29-28 lead.
Alex Connell, who knocked down four deep threes, led Buna in scoring with 20 points and had six rebounds. The Cougars’ lone senior, Chandler Dickerson, had 10 points and eight rebounds.
Hitchcock won the rebounding battle, 44-33, recording 11 rebounds in each quarter.
With its first playoff win since 2014, Hitchcock advances to the area round of the playoffs, where the Bulldogs will face the winner of Tuesday’s bi-district game between Coldspring-Oakhurst and Newton at a time, date and location to be determined