Dadeville High was never out of hot water throughout the game against LaFayette Thursday night but the Tigers were able to overcome a near loss with a fingertip layup from Philstavious Dowdell to win 59-56 Thursday night.
“This has been the first exciting game we’ve had,” interim head coach Curtis Sharpe said. “It was awesome. We come together and pull that win off.”
The Tigers entered the game with a numbers advantage on the bench but fans in the gym would soon learn, the win wouldn’t come easily in enemy territory.
The Bulldogs were scrappy throughout the game and the Tigers often found that scrappiness to be a challenge.
In the first quarter, the Tigers took over the game with a 10-point lead but that was the biggest advantage they’d hold in the first half at 18-8.
Over the course of four minutes, Dadeville’s lead shrunk to just two points as the Bulldogs mounted a full assault. However, the Tigers managed to score seven points to preserve their lead but it was not easy as the Bulldogs’ offensive tear barred a 25-23 game.
The advantage was still the Tigers’ though as the program managed to score five more points in the final minutes of the first half, however, LaFayette was there at halftime down just four points in the 30-26 game.
Coming out of halftime, it was the Tigers who came out ready with some spice. Of their trips to their hoop, only two of them came up empty on the floor in the opening minute of the quarter. Things just rapidly progressed to get better for the Tigers throughout the third quarter. The Tigers’ lead swelled to 10 just before Issiah Tolbert fouled LaFayette shooter Ty Daniel, marking their third foul of the second half, but it was the second straight foul right after that took the Tigers out of their groove.
A quick steal and score led to the Tigers’ fourth foul of the quarter but, as he’d done all night, Daquan Doss managed to snipe a three from the beyond the arc and the Tigers were back on their stride dropping a second score on a quick fast break.
Dadeville was back up 45-36 after sensing danger briefly from the Bulldogs. However, the danger was far from over.
At the end of the fourth quarter, the Tigers held a 47-39 lead but the Bulldogs weren’t ready to let the Tigers leave with the win.
Dadeville went cold offensively and forced passes opening the door for the Bulldogs as they only managed to score one point in the first three minutes of the final quarter. The Bulldogs managed to get the score down to just two points but Ralph Gold found his range on a deep three but LaFayette responded on the other side of the court with a put backer of their own.
Both teams traded scores but the game still managed to sit at three-points with just under three and a half minutes remaining in regulation.
But the lead was going to be challenged once more but the Bulldogs couldn’t convert an and-one attempt. But the missed conversion wouldn’t bite the program too much, the Bulldogs stole the ball and converted on the other side of the floor in the final minute to pressure Dadeville 55-54.
In the final 35 seconds of the game it was anyone’s game. A drive to the hoop for Lafayette’s Jay Daniel changed the lead to the Bulldogs’ hands, but barely. But it was how Daniel drove through the lane seemingly undeterred that stood out the most after the game.
“We’re just not communicating on backside and help side as much as we should,” Sharpe said. “That’s something we can fix with practice. Getting tired, putting our hands down, opening up passing lanes, not being aggressive enough. That’s been the key things.”
With a timeout called, the Tigers had just 28 seconds to respond or risk losing the game they led most of the night.
Much like how Daniel drove through a defense, Dowdell drove to the hoop and rolled his fingertips on a layup in traffic that landed.
The Bulldogs missed a shot soon after and was forced to foul the Tigers sending Antojuan Woody to the charity stripe. Woody made both shots giving the Tigers a lead with 2.3 seconds left in regulation.
Explaining the wave emotions in the gym would be like a rising and falling wave. One that could sweep anyone up into the moment, however, not for Sharpe.
“For me, I’ve been playing basketball my whole life,” Sharpe said. “You live and breathe for games like that. You’re hungry for games like that. I’m just glad to see that we handled the pressure. My blood pressure probably goes up a little bit but it’s not me playing on the court so we have to stay calm and collected so the boys can stay calm and collected.”
LaFayette’s last ditch effort shot never stood a chance as the buzzer sounded for the Dadeville’s fourth win of the young season. The Tigers return to action in January.