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Sweet Water topples Patriots

Top-seeded Linden failed to overcome a slow start Friday night, falling to No. 4 seed Sweet Water 77-73 in the first round of the AHSAA Class 1A, Area 5 boys tournament.

“We got off to a slow start,” Linden head coach Joe Eatmon said of the loss. “We hung around the arc and missed shots. I preached about those slow starts for last seven or eight games and we never could really get that together.”

Sweet Water opened the game with a flourish, shooting its way to a 41-28 halftime advantage.

Bulldog senior Damaraquis Williams, who had 13 points in the first half, opened the third quarter by burying a three from the left side. On the ensuing possession, Linden senior Kendarius Goodwill answered with a quick trey of his own from the top of the key to set the tone for the half.

The teams combined for 47 points in the third quarter with Linden taking 25 of them to pull to within 10 points of the lead.

The Patriots’ surge continued in the fourth quarter and the momentum seemed entirely in Linden’s corner when Goodwill connected on another three to cut the SWHS lead to 69-66 with 3:30 remaining on the game clock.

However, the Patriots would get no closer, going scoreless over the next two minutes and 37 seconds before junior Gerald Bruno posted seven points in the minute of the game to leave the contest at its final score.

“They came in and they just outplayed us,” Eatmon said.

“All year I knew we had something special. I think that coming up here Tuesday actually helped us,” first-year Sweet Water head coach Jonathan Farr said of his squad, which earned the right to play the Patriots by beating A.L. Johnson in a play-in game Tuesday night in Linden. “It helped us get acclimated to the environment.”

Goodwill led Linden with 33 points. Andrew Rogers finished with 11 while Gerald Bruno added 10. The trio was not enough to overcome Sweet Water, who was led by Williams with 23 points. Antonio Landrum poured in 21 while Jul Gaines contributed 15.

“I thought our seniors played outstanding. They led us from the get-go,” Farr said. “We played a complete basketball game.”

His team will take to the floor again Monday night in Linden when it challenges No. 3 seed Sunshine for the area title.

“They can block a lot of shots,” Farr said of the Tigers, who defeated No. 2 seed John Essex 60-56 Friday night to advance to the finals. “They’re a very good basketball team.”

The Bulldogs and Tigers split their two regular season meetings.

“We want to do something else that Sweet Water’s never done and that’s win the area championship,” Farr said.

Monday’s game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. tip-off at George P. Austin Junior High in Linden.