Prep Basketball NORTHWEST REGIONAL: Hanceville comes up short in 57-53 thriller with Lauderdale Co. | The Cullman Tribune

Prep Basketball

NORTHWEST REGIONAL: Hanceville comes up short in 57-53 thriller with Lauderdale Co.

Lauderdale County wins Boys 3A Championship

Hanceville’s Brendan Flanigan (2) and R.J. Evans (1) face off against a Lauderdale County player on Wednesday in the 3A Boys Championship game in the Northwest Regional Tournament. / Nick Griffin

HANCEVILLE - The Hanceville Bulldogs’ season ended at 19-9 Wednesday afternoon after they came up just short in a 57-53 thriller with Lauderdale County. Both teams came out swinging with a trip to Birmingham on the line and combined for 55 points in a fast-paced, up and down first quarter that set the tone for the rest of the contest. The first half alone saw 16 lead changes and five ties between the two squads.

The Bulldogs and the Tigers continued to trade buckets in the second quarter, but Hanceville started dealing with some foul trouble early on. Both Damion Johnson and R.J. Evans collected three fouls in the first half which helped Lauderdale County get to the free-throw line early and often. The Tigers shot 10-of-15 from the free-throw line, and while Hanceville was 7-for-7 from the line, they couldn’t get there nearly as often. Turnovers were a problem for the Bulldogs in the first half as well, turning it over 14 times compared to Lauderdale County’s four.

Despite the fouls and turnovers, Hanceville trailed just 38-35 at halftime thanks in part to 14 first-half points from Zeke McDonald and thanks to the Bulldogs’ whopping 63 percent shooting from the field. McDonald led the Bulldogs with 15 points and seven rebounds.

The second half was just as tight as the first. The Tigers started the third quarter with a 6-0 scoring run, but Hanceville wouldn’t go away and had the lead cut to 46-45 at the start of the final quarter. Fred Ellis laid one in at the start of the fourth to give Hanceville its first lead of the second half. After that Hanceville’s foul trouble from the first half reared its head as Evans was sent to the bench with his fifth foul at the 5:32 mark. Evans finished with 10 points and four rebounds.

After Evans’ departure, the lead belonged to the Tigers until Josh Stanley scored inside to give the Bulldogs a one-point lead with less than two minutes to play. Stanley’s basket was the final score of the game for the Bulldogs and Lauderdale County continued to do damage from the free-throw line, knocking down four from the line in the final 43 seconds of play, three of which came inside of the last 10 seconds. Conner Smith led all scorers with 17 points, six of them coming from the free-throw stripe.

Hanceville got one final opportunity with eight seconds to play, down by three points, but turned the ball over on the in bounds pass and fell just short of a Final Four appearance in Birmingham.

Free throws and turnovers were the story of the game for the Bulldogs. Hanceville continued to shoot more than 50 percent from the field in the second half, but eight more turnovers and 17 more free throw attempts for the Tigers created enough separation for Lauderdale County to survive late.

After the game, Coach Daniel Wakefield and his team were recognized for their runner-up finish in this year’s Northwest Regional and Evans, Raiden Morgan and McDonald were all selected for this year’s All Tournament team.

The Bulldogs will return a lot of talent from this year’s squad as just three seniors will be graduating in May. Coach Wakefield and the returning Bulldogs will get back to work this offseason with their eyes on another post-season run this time next year.

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