Gaston boys advance to county tourney finals with win over Sardis
Thu. January 16, 2014 at 10:45 p.m. | By J.J. Hicks Staff Writer
Coach Buddy Wright's Gaston Bulldogs defeated Sardis on Thursday in the Etowah County tournament.
Gaston coach Buddy Wright sees the Etowah County boys high school basketball tournament championship game as a monumental challenge for his ballclub.
Today’s task comes on the heels of a 46-34 win over Sardis in the semifinals of the tournament at Gadsden State Community College on Thursday night. The sixth-seeded Bulldogs jumped all over the No. 2 seeded Lions early and relied upon a strong defensive performance down the stretch to advance to the title game.
Gaston (8-12) will face Class 4A, No. 5 Hokes Bluff at 7:30 p.m. today in the finals.
“We have picked up a little continuity,” Wright said. “Everything is based on our defense, and we have matured offensively on being patient and taking good shots. Our ball handling has gotten a whole lot better and we haven’t had a whole lot of turnovers. Against a good team like Sardis, you can’t have turnovers.
“I have a great coaching staff. We teach our kids how to play basketball and we want to pass the game down to them. We put a lot of emphasis on doing things the right way, and it starts with defense.”
Now, the task becomes stopping the Eagles and their 7-foot-2 center and Purdue signee Isaac Haas.
“It doesn’t get any easier,” Wright said. “I guess that’s why my momma named me David, because tomorrow is going to be David versus Goliath. We’re excited and blessed about having the opportunity to play for a county championship.”
“We have to stop Isaac Haas,” Gaston’s Albert Douglas said. “We’re a small team. We’re nothing but 5-foot-9 and down.”
The Bulldogs had the hot hand early against the Lions (13-6). After a 3-pointer by Sardis’ Cody Turk gave the Lions a 6-5 edge, Gaston finished the quarter on a 16-3 run to go on top 21-9 after the first. Braxton Collins scored the last five points for the Bulldogs, including a layup at the buzzer.
Though it never was able to regain the lead, Sardis put the defensive clamps on in the second quarter and battled to within striking distance. Chase Faulks’ bucket with 1:20 left until halftime cut the Lions’ deficit to 26-21. Douglas hit a late jumper to put Gaston up 28-21 at the break.
The margin grew to double-digits, 31-21, early in the third, but Sardis again slowly chipped away at the Gaston lead. Faulks’ steal and layup late in the quarter cut it to 34-29. The teams exchanged baskets to make it 36-31 Bulldogs heading into the final eight minutes.
The fourth quarter saw Gaston arguably play its best defense of the night. The Lions managed just three points in the fourth, with a basket by Will Scott to open the quarter. It was the lone field goal they got for the rest of the game.
After the Bulldogs went up 39-33, Sardis took to committing fouls. The strategy did not pay off, however, as it was unable to convert on the other end. Josh Bogle’s steal and pass to Douglas for a layup with 1:19 put Gaston up 42-33 and ended any final hopes of a Lion comeback. Douglas added four more late points, and led all players with 17 points.
“Coach tells us not to worry about what they do, just worry about what we do,” Douglas said. “We just kept that mentality and did what we had to do.”
“Albert Douglas is our most consistent and solid player on both ends of the court,” Wright said. “We feed off of Albert Douglas. He’s knowledgeable, he’s a good ballplayer and he’s smart. I can’t say enough about him. He’s the type of player every coach wants on his team because in crunch time, you’re looking for Albert Douglas to make a play for you.”
Javonte Pope and Trevion Rooks each chipped in six points for the Bulldogs.
Sardis was paced by Faulks’ 12 points. Jesse Hubbard had seven points and Turk finished with six points for the Lions.