After crushing Taliaferro County 91-57 Monday night, the Harlem High School Bulldogs found themselves in an unlikely situation.
Heading into Friday night’s game with Grovetown, the Bulldogs had a chance to go into the Christmas break with their record at .500.
This despite losing a high profile player who was expected to be the centerpiece of the squad.
“I am super impressed with our kids and how they have come out this year and played and tried to do their best,” said Bulldogs coach Kim Chambers. “If you would have told me that we would be 5-6 with a chance to possibly be 6-6 right now, I’d tell you you were on drugs.”
Calling depth the key to his team, nowhere was that more on display than Monday night when 11 players got into the scoring column.
Trailing 13-10 with 2:41 left in the first quarter, the Bulldogs turned up the heat defensively and turned the game around.
“We were doing man and then we went to a trapping full court press,” said Chambers.
Creating four consecutive Jaguar turnovers off the press, the Bulldogs got a Dakota Madigan layup, an Austin Hubert conventional three-point-play, a Hubert putback and a Madigan three-pointer as they forged ahead 20-13. A Torien Beard layup and three points from Damien Dorsey ended the quarter with Harlem on a 15-0 run.
The run didn’t stop until after Madigan hit two free throws with 6:17 left in the half at which point the Bulldogs led 31-13. The Jaguars made a late run to cut the deficit to 12 points at the break.
Chambers called controlling the Jaguars (0-6) Kendarius Ruff the key to the game. The Bulldogs made their initial push after Ruff sat down with two fouls in the first quarter. They talked about getting him in foul trouble at halftime after he scored 10 of his game-high 24 points in the second quarter and it paid off.
“That was really the key, he picked up that fourth foul within a minute, minute and a half of the third quarter and he had to sit and we kind of blew it open right there,” said Chambers.
By the middle of the fourth quarter it was more a layup drill than anything else as the Bulldogs outscored the Jaguars 30-12.
Chris Harris paced the Bulldogs with 14 points, Madigan and Hubert had 13 apiece while Beard, Kanez Dunn, Dorsey and Rayshawn Morris chipped in with nine points each.
In the night’s first contest, the Lady Bulldogs got the best of the Lady Jaguars (0-8), winning 47-35.
Trailing 4-0 early, an Olivia Fitzgerald 3-pointer kicked off a 23-4 run as the Lady Bulldogs (2-8) took control by the middle of the second quarter.
The Lady Bulldogs’ Madison Williamson and Diamond Chaneyfield dominated the glass until the end. Williamson finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds before fouling out with 2:34 to play and Chaneyfield pulled down 16 boards accompanied by six points before getting ejected along with the Lady Jaguars’ Brianna Nille with 1:45 to go after a scuffle. Fitzgerald also finished in double figures with 12 points.
“Anytime you win the rebounding battle, it opens everything,” said Lady Bulldogs coach Anthony Sweat. “Our transition game looked great in the first half, we were getting off the boards and going, but it always starts with Madison (Williamson) and Diamond (Chaneyfield).”
Sweat said he also liked the effort he is getting from point guard Brandy Hardaway who had four assists.
“Brandy has accepted her role,” Sweat said. “Earlier in the year she was a scorer.”
Leading 25-22 at halftime, the Lady Bulldogs held the Lady Jaguars to 13 points in the second half.
“If we can rebound and play aggressive on defense, I like our chances,” said Sweat. “If you can get 13-point halves and play great defense, there’s no reason you shouldn’t win.”