By Will McClure
The Stamford Bulldogs entered the Stamford Hoops Classic Tournament Thursday looking to bounce back from a close 52-49 loss against Roscoe, leaving them with a 1-7 record to open the season, their only win coming from a victory against Newcastle during the Albany Tournament. The Bulldogs would decisively win their first three games before taking on a tough Abilene Hawks team in an exciting contest where the Bulldogs came out victorious. With only a round robin format to determine the champion, the Bulldogs used the home court advantage and support of fellow students and the Stamford Bulldog Nation to sweep the tournament.
GAME 1 VS. LUEDERS-AVOCA: The Bulldogs kicked off the first round of the tournament with an impressive win over the Lueders-Avoca Raiders Thursday morning, taking a 63-46 victory. The Bulldogs started off strong, winning the opening tipoff and going onto a 10 point run, 7 of which were contributed by Ligon West. Once the Raiders began to score, they would step up their defensive game by winning tough rebounds, keeping the Bulldogs to only three more points to end the first period 13-6. Although the Raiders attempted a major comeback, the Bulldogs continued to find their rhythm. Ligon West led the charge by making quick steals and turning them into easy baskets, contributing to his 19 points scored in the game. The Bulldogs would continue their strong offensive game, allowing them to amass a 17 point lead going into the second half.
The Bulldogs picked up right where they left off at the beginning of the third period, with Ligon West becoming a “stealing machine,” allowing Stamford to extend their lead to 23 points. The Raiders would bounce back, keeping the third period points close with the Raiders scoring 15 points opposed to the Bulldogs’ 17. When the fourth period began, the Bulldogs played a more cautious game, hoping to keep the lead while maintaining energy for the remainder of the tournament. The fourth period was the only one in which the Raiders would outscore the Bulldogs 12-10 and even amassing a 6 point run before being stopped by a basket from John Louis Dyer. The Bulldogs held on strong to win 63-46 and began the tournament with a 1-0 record. The Bulldogs received a bye in the second round, ending their tournament play for the day.
GAME 2 VS. TRENT: The Bulldogs looked to improve their record going into Friday morning’s game against Trent and with the SHS students behind them, they did not disappoint. It was all Bulldogs defense early on with the Bulldogs preventing the Trent Gorillas from even making it to their side of the court. John Louis Dyer recorded at least three impressive steals in a row to keep the ball in Stamford territory, allowing the Bulldogs to gain the early lead at 18-8 at the end of the first period. The Gorillas would match the Bulldogs defense at the start of the second, with both teams making good rebounds and steals. Trent attempted to break through, but ultimately could not capitalize during the fast-paced period. Both teams would not be able to break into double digits in scoring for the period, with Stamford scoring 9 points opposed to the Gorillas’ 7. The Bulldogs maintained the lead at the half 27-15.
Things continued to fall apart for the Gorillas offensively during the third, only scoring 1 point throughout. Defense continued to dominate the game as the third period ended in a flash, but not before the Bulldogs would extend their lead by a further 10 points. Trent came out strong in the fourth period, keeping Stamford’s scoring opportunities to a minimum but was ultimately unable to close the gap. This would result in an aggressive comeback attempt which would only result in sending a Bulldog to the free throw line. The Bulldogs did let the increased defense break their composure as they held onto the lead for a 49-23 victory. Ligon West led the team with 18 points followed by Tanner Vance’s 9, eight of which came in the third period. The win brought the Bulldogs’ tournament record to 2-0 while Trent fell to 0-2. The Bulldogs were then given a much-needed rest ahead of their third game of the tournament, which took place that same evening against Munday.
GAME 3 VS. MUNDAY: The Bulldogs looked to continue their winning ways Friday night when they faced the Munday Moguls and were able to prove that they were up to the task. After a deadlocked first four minutes that saw neither team with any points on the board, back to back baskets from Ligon West gave the Bulldogs the early lead. Offensive rebounds kept the Bulldogs ahead, turning at least two from Tanner Vance and Ligon West respectively into successful baskets. The Bulldogs would then play fast and furious, bringing the Bulldog fans to their feet while the Moguls took a timeout in an attempt to regroup. Tanner Vance continued to be a rebounding machine on both sides, staying close underneath the basket to capitalize on Mogul misses. The Bulldogs extended their lead to double digits going into the second period, but not before an amazing three point buzzer beater from Lonnie Applin that would once again bring the Bulldog Nation to their feet. Munday came back strong in the second period, going on an early six-point run and stopping Stamford scoring until past the four-minute mark. The Moguls utilized long passes and fast breaks to try and close the gap while the Bulldogs kept a calculated pace with good ball movement and shot selection, resulting in successful three-point attempts which allowed them to go to halftime leading 27-15.
When the teams returned to the court at the start of the third period, Stamford began dominating the game to extend their lead. Continuing to use good ball movement, making the most of free throw opportunities and playing strong defense kept the Moguls to 8 points to Stamford’s 23. Another outstanding three point buzzer beater from Lonnie Applin that echoed the first period all but clenched the game at 50-23, but the Bulldogs would not let up and let the Moguls mount a comeback. Even with the commanding 27 point lead, the Bulldogs did not waiver in their game plan and held the Moguls to only 4 points in the fourth period. Although the Bulldogs would also only score 4 points, they instead focused on controlling the ball with short passes to keep it moving. Munday was unable to mount any sort of comeback and the Bulldogs took a dominating 54-27 victory. The loss would drop Munday’s tournament record to 2-2 and would guarantee them third place in the tournament, with Lueders-Avoca and Trent’s 0-3 records mathematically eliminating them from contention even though they would play each other on Saturday. With the win, the Stamford Bulldogs moved to 3-0, entering a tie with the Abilene Hawks which would be broken in the final game of the tournament and determine the champion.
GAME 4 VS. ABILENE HAWKS (TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONSHIP): In contrast to the previous three games, the Bulldogs did not get on the board first, allowing the Abilene Hawks to take a close early lead. The Bulldogs would keep the game close and would result in excellent back and forth action. Two three point shots from John Louis Dyer followed by a further three points from Ligon West that barely beat the buzzer would keep the gap to 4 with the Hawks leading 15-11. The second period brought more of the same back and forth action, with Abilene answering each and every one of Stamford’s points. Multiple baskets and free throws dominated the period, but both teams would score 11 points in the period to keep the gap at 4 going into the second half.
When the game resumed, the Hawks came out strong and began to extend their lead. While the Hawks seemed to get stronger, the Bulldogs began to lose their energy by missing key shots that would have kept the game close. The Abilene Hawks brought their lead into the double digits by staying ahead 40-26 going into the final period. The Hawks looked to keep the game in their favor, but would be unable to find the basket and allowed the Bulldogs to find their second wind. Back to back three point shots from Lonnie Applin would get the Bulldogs closer to the lead. The Hawks tried to keep the ball moving to drain the clock, but with just over a minute to go, a three point basket from Ligon West tied the game at 42-42. Looking to possibly bring the game to overtime, the Abilene Hawks passed the ball in an attempt to get closer to the basket. With just seven seconds left in the game, Ligon West stole the ball and made a fast break to the basket. West put the ball up, drawing a shooting foul from the Hawks and stopping the clock at just under a second left in the game. The ball kept moving and fell, bringing about a roar from the stands and bringing the Stamford Nation to their feet as the Bulldogs took the lead. Abilene made a last ditch effort to make a quick shot, but the final long pass was stopped by the Bulldogs to allow them to win the game and the tournament 44-42 in an exciting final period.
The Bulldogs would swept the tournament with a 4-0 record while the Abilene Hawks took second with a 3-1 record followed by the 2-2 Munday team. The tournament brought the Bulldogs’ overall record to 5-7 as the Bulldogs will attempt to keep the momentum on their side when they travel to Jayton Tuesday night, with the JV game beginning at 5:15 followed by the Varsity game at 8:00. The boys will then travel to Archer City on December 19 with JV beginning at 5:15 and Varsity at 8:00. Congratulations to the Bulldogs and keep up the good work!