Tuesday, December 20, 2011

SPORTS >> Rally late in second does job for Bears

Leader sportswriter

White Hall’s advantage on the boards was not enough to make up for other aspects of the game otherwise controlled by Sylvan Hills in a 61-49 victory in the SHHS gymnasium on Friday to open 5A-Southeast Conference play.

The Bears (5-1, 1-0) did not enjoy one of their better shooting nights from the floor but were still able to rely on the depth of their all-star lineup to make plays on both ends, breaking out to an early 10-2 lead as the beginning of a steady take off that never allowed the Bulldogs to get any closer than five points.

“Our depth paid off for us right there,” Bears coach Kevin Davis said. “We were able to sub quite a bit early, and when the starters came back in there at the end of the second, had a lot of energy. And those last few minutes there in the first half, it turned in a hurry.”

White Hall pulled to within 22-17 with 2:31 remaining in the first half when senior point guard Dion Patton picked up a steal and took it the distance. A Larry Ziegler jumper right after that made it 26-17. Trey Smith then sank a three pointer, and Archie Goodwin gave the capacity crowd what it came to see with a one-handed dunk in the lane that put the Bears up 31-19 with 31 seconds remaining in the first half.

The Bulldogs (4-4, 0-1) kept Sylvan Hills honest for most of the first half, mainly on the solid rebounding game of D.J. Freeman, who cleaned up on the glass with 15 rebounds while his teammate Jeremy Sprinkle pulled down 13, 10 of which were in the second half.

“We talked about that at half that we were standing around,” Davis said. “We seemed a little dead legged, maybe from the break, but I said it was unacceptable. We were aware that that was going on, and we talked about it. Not sure it helped, but we sure talked about it.”

Versatility was key for the Bears in the second half as Goodwin, who suffered a difficult night shooting from the floor, converted his role to rebounder as Patton took over on drives to the basket. Patton scored on a floating jumper in the lane with 4:15 left to play in the third quarter to give Sylvan Hills a 40-25 lead, eventually going on to lead the Bears with 15 points while Goodwin finished with 13 points and eight rebounds.

Senior post player Devon Pearson had his hands full inside trying to contend with the twin-tower attack of Sprinkle and Freeman for rebounds, but still managed to pull down seven while adding 10 points for Sylvan Hills. Pearson was part of the early push that gave the Bears initial momentum when he scored on an inside jumper and drew a foul from Sprinkle, converting the three-point play to put the Bears up 6-2.

“I didn’t think we shot the ball particularly well as a team,” Davis said. “The well was dry for us on several trips. I just thought we were a little lethargic tonight, but the bench helped us.”

Jalon Wilkins tried to get the Bulldogs back in it late in the fourth quarter with a push on the offensive side. He drove the baseline for two with 2:48 left to play to cut the lead to 54-43, and hit two free throws on the next trip to take the lead down to a single digit for the first time in the second half.

But facing a team loaded with expert ball handlers, White Hall’s only option was to start fouling. The Bears went 6 of 8 from the free-throw line down the stretch.

Ziegler finished with eight points for the Bears. For White Hall, Sprinkle led with 16 points while Wilkins had 15 points.

“Those boys are so well coached, and they hustle,” Davis said of White Hall. “We knew coming in that White Hall was going to battle us. We’re tickled to death to be at home and get this first conference win under our belt.”