For about six minutes, the Winder-Barrow boys basketball team was locked in a hard-fought battle with Madison County on Tuesday.
Then Ahmad Scott made a short jumper, followed by Cam Stillwell, and then Tre English sank a 3-pointer before the end of the first quarter. Just like that, an 11-9 lead became an 18-9 lead, and the Bulldoggs never looked back, cruising to a 79-61 victory.
But the game wasn’t as close as the score indicated. Winder-Barrow led 71-43 after three quarters, and Bulldoggs coach Ron Garren began pulling starters. That’s when the Red Raiders scored enough points to only lose in the teens.
“I was really pleased with our defense, especially in the first half,” Garren said.
“I think in the second half, we need to learn that when you have a big lead, you need to play with the fundamental defense that got us there. We’ve got a lot of work to do on that end. But this team can be really special; we have five or six kids that can really play.”
English led the Bulldoggs with 14 points, Brandon Bannis followed him with 13 and Tyreek Perkins added 12.
Neither of them played in the fourth quarter. English and Perkins did most of their damage in the second quarter.
They each accounted for eight points as the Bulldoggs outscored the Red Raiders 27-19. Bannis came alive in the third quarter after a quiet first half. He scored 10 in the third to help the Bulldoggs pull away even further.
Winder-Barrow (3-1) will be looking for another victory over North Oconee this Friday. The Bulldoggs defeated the Titans 69-57 on the road last month.
On Saturday, Winder-Barrow travels to Burke County, and on Tuesday it travels to Walnut Grove.
At the end of the third quarter, the Winder-Barrow girls trailed Madison County 45-31. By the end of regulation, they had tied the game 47-47 and were headed to overtime with momentum on their side.
However, one last surge by the Lady Red Raiders put the Lady Bulldoggs away with a 58-54 defeat. Winder-Barrow senior guard and Cincinnati signee Chellia Watson lived up to her reputation by battling through cramps and an injured finger to score 19 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter and six in the final minute, to tie the game. Her game-tying shot came at the free throw line as she drew a foul on a 3-pointer. She sank all three shots.
“We got down 14, I fussed at the girls pretty hard at halftime and they came out and responded,” said WBHS head coach Kimberly Garren. “That’s all I can ask with such a young team. There’s very little varsity experience out there. I was very proud of the way they fought in the second half.”
Unfortunately for the Lady Bulldoggs (2-2), Watson fouled out on offense with just seconds to go in regulation. Without her on the court, Winder-Barrow struggled to generate enough offense to counter a Madison County attack that had become more aggressive with the extra four minutes. They were outscored in overtime 11-7.
“It wasn’t her [Watson’s] best game with a hurt finger, but she’s a playmaker,” Garren said. “We really missed her in those last four minutes after fouling out.”
Even though they trailed by 14 going into the fourth quarter, the Lady Doggs didn’t spend the whole game on the losing end of a rout. They scored the first points of the game with a Watson three-ball and kept control most of the first quarter until they allowed a pair of threes before the buzzer to go down 14-11. Madison County carried the momentum of those threes with it through the second quarter; at one point it led 27-13. But Winder-Barrow rallied to seemingly cut the lead to 27-23 at halftime before they allowed Madison County to hit a buzzer-beating three, setting the score to 30-23. Before long, the Lady Raiders extended their lead to 45-29 in the third quarter. A Daisia Stillwell jumper cut the lead down to 45-31 at the end of the third and ended up sparking the Bulldoggs second rally of the game.
“It was a punch in the heart,” she said. “I told them, ‘Do you want to make it game, or have them run you out of the gym? You’re capable, you’re prepared. Execute.’ Making a couple of plays made attitudes change.”
Winder-Barrow still has several weeks before region play begins. It will host North Oconee this Friday night in a rematch from a game played in Bogart last month. The Lady Doggs won the first match-up 60-46. After that, Winder-Barrow travels to Burke County this Saturday and to Walnut Grove on Tuesday.