Bulldogs' trip to Birmingham is a short one as R.C. Hatch beats Priceville 85-39
Justin Schuver, Hartselle Enquirer
BIRMINGHAM – After blowing out both opponents at the Northeast Regionals, the Priceville Bulldogs had the tables turned on them at the Final Four.
Priceville lost 85-39 to R.C. Hatch Feb. 28 at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex, bringing an end to the Bulldogs' playoff run.
"We had a great season," Priceville coach Darrell Haynes said. "We came a long way and had considerable improvement throughout the year. We came down here and didn't play very well, but you'd have to say our opponent had a lot to do with that."
R.C. Hatch, which holds the Alabama High School Athletic Association record for most state championships with seven, used a dominating inside presence to control the tempo of the game all night. In the first half, where the Bobcats leapt out to a 43-21 lead, they outrebounded Priceville by a 22-10 margin.
The Bulldogs, who have no starters above 6-foot-1, had difficulty dealing with 6-foot-4 Calvin Pope, 6-foot-3 Phillip Johnson and 6-foot-3 Frankie Sullivan. Pope and Sullivan each scored 15 points and pulled down 10 rebounds and Johnson led the team with 16 points.
"The only team we've played this year who had players like that was probably West Limestone," said Alex Cannon, one of four seniors on this year's team. "When you go up against post players who are that big and score that easily, it's really hard to defend that."
The Bulldogs, who shot close to 60 percent at both of their games in Jacksonville State, were only 13-of-47 from the field in Birmingham, for a 28 percent field goal shooting percentage. Priceville, which often makes its living from the three-point line, shot 31 three-pointers but hit only 12 of them.
In the first half, the Bulldogs attempted 25 shots – 21 of them were three-pointers.
"Throughout the season I've told the team that the games where we've shot 25 or less three-pointers, we've won," Haynes said. "I don't think we've won any game where we shot 25 threes in a game.
"We were settling for a lot of shots we didn't need to be taking instead of working the ball inside to get closer shots near to the basket. A lot of that was us frustration. That's just a combination for disaster."
The Bulldogs could never quite find their offensive rhythm and fell behind 9-0 early in the game. Priceville cut that deficit down to 11-6 on a three-pointer by K.C. Green with 3:38 left in the first quarter, but that five-point margin would be as close as the Bulldogs would get all night.
Cannon led the Bulldogs with 15 points. Guard Josh Bedwell, who scored a combined 80 points in Priceville's two regional games, was held to nine points by an R.C. Hatch box-on-one defense that keyed on him the entire game.
"We knew they had a bona fide shooter," R.C. Hatch first-year coach Homer Davis, Jr., said of Priceville. "We tried to go box-and-one and try to contain him at the beginning of the ball game, and they didn't get that spark. We felt if we could get off to a good lead, we could control the tempo of the game, and that's exactly what happened. The players have to believe in what they're doing and they executed well."
R.C. Hatch led 23-9 after one quarter and opened the second quarter on a 14-3 run to put the game all but out of reach.
Bedwell said that his team had seen similar defenses during the regular season and playoffs, but Tuesday night the Bulldogs' shots just weren't falling.
"They played very good defense," he said. "That's not the first time we'd seen a box-and-one. We just weren't hitting our shots today and that allowed them to cheat in tight defensively. Usually we just shoot our way out of it but tonight we didn't hit our shots."
Priceville's season ended at 20-12.