Hatch escape Bears den 55-48

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 17, 2004

ORRVILLE-Frankie Sullivan and Darryl Wilson went 7-for-8 from the free-throw line as the R.C. Hatch Bobcats escaped the den of the Keith Bears with a 55-48 win Saturday night capturing the Class 2A Area 5 championship in the process.

The No.4 ranked Bobcats jumped all over Keith early as Sullivan and Quinton Collins hit back-to-back three-pointers to fire up the Uniontown faithful. Billy Campbell and Calvin Pope controlled the paint on both ends as the Cats built a 14-7 first quarter lead.

Hatch employed a box-and-one defense on Keith’s leading scorer Charles Jones that rattled Coach Joseph Pettway’s young Bears.

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But the savvy coach, who led Wilcox-Central to the 2000 5A state championship, is adept at making mid-game adjustments.

Pettway moved Jones to the low post and the junior scorer muscled his way for eight of his game-high 16 points in the second quarter keeping the Bears within striking distance.

Jones’ play in the paint was key Saturday night as presented Hatch star Billy Campbell with early foul troubles, collecting four by the half.

Jones converted an old-fashioned three-point play and drove the baseline for another bucket that cut a 13-point halftime deficit to an eight-point deficit, one minute into the second half.

Campbell fouled out in the process and things looked bleak for the Perry County Cats.

“Our kids knew they had to step it up when Billy fouled out,” Hatch head coach Eugene Mason said.

Rebounding machine Jeremiah Whitt had three put backs for the Bears, which closed Keith to within 36-33 midway through the third quarter.

The Bears’ suffocating full court press created several Bobcat turnovers and sophomore big man Lewis Lee’s tip-in at the buzzer left Hatch clinging to a 42-41 lead entering the final period.

Freshmen Calvin Pope stuck back a rebound and took a feed from Frederick Lewis to give the Cats breathing room at 46-41 with just under six minutes to play. But the Bears’ trapping defense kept them close.

The Bears continued to close the gap as Jones again found the bottom of the net on a power-move over two defending Bobcats.

Exhausted of their time outs, the Cats were whistled for a technical foul after signaling for one on an inbounds attempt.

Jones knocked down the two technical shots, pulling the Bears within 50-48 at the 2:33 mark.

Bobcats reserve guard Darryl Wilson made the game’s biggest play on the next two possessions.

His steal and subsequent foul shot put Hatch up 51-48 with 1:21 to go.

Pope snagged a key rebound and Bobcat veteran coach Eugene Mason ordered his battle-tested troops to play keep away. Wilson added two more free throws and Sullivan knocked down two more after Pope took a charge on the Bears’ next possession. Sullivan, Wilson and Lewis effectively ran out the last 28 seconds as the Bears chased futilely.

Pope led the Bobcats with twelve points and 13 rebounds with Sullivan, Lewis, and Collins each collecting 11 points apiece.

With the win, the Bobcats will host Hale County in a sub-regional match-up this Friday night in Uniontown with the winner advancing to the Southwest regional in Mobile next week.

The game is slated for 7:00pm.