Prep Basketball NORTHWEST REGIONAL: Hanceville upsets no. 5 Holly Pond, 65-59 | The Cullman Tribune

Prep Basketball

NORTHWEST REGIONAL: Hanceville upsets no. 5 Holly Pond, 65-59

Hanceville’s Zeke McDonald (3) goes hard against a wall of Holly Pond defense Saturday night in the 3A Boys Northwest Regional. / Nick Griffin

HANCEVILLE -  In their two regular season meetings, the Holly Pond Broncos won both games against the Hanceville Bulldogs. But there was a lot on the line for both teams in Saturday night’s Northwest Regional game: a trip to the finals to take on Lauderdale County. In one of the biggest upsets of the year, the Bulldogs made timely baskets and stops when they needed to, holding off a late Bronco rally to stun Holly Pond, 65-59.

The first quarter was evenly matched, ending with the score knotted at 14-all. But Hanceville's defense completely stifled Holly Pond in the second, holding them to just one basket, made by Griffin Morris. After a Tyler Boatright free throw tied the game at 17, Brendan Flanigan hit a layup, then Raiden Morgan hit a trey from the left wing to give the Bulldogs a 22-17 lead.

Morris scored four straight to make it a 22-21 game, and layups by Josh Stanley and Morgan pushed Hanceville's lead back to five at 26-21. After a pair of Morris free throws made it a 26-23 game, Zeke McDonald nailed a trey from the right wing before the buzzer sounded and the Bulldogs went into the locker room with a 29-23 lead.

The Bulldogs held the Broncos to just 17 percent shooting in the first half (5-of-28), but Holly Pond nailed 12-of-14 from the line to stay in the game. Hanceville shot 52 percent from the field in the first half (13-25) and 3-of-7 from the three-point line. 

Holly Pond finally got some shots to fall in the third quarter, but Hanceville seemed to match them shot for shot. Morgan nailed a trey from the top of the key off a Bronco turnover to increase Hanceville’s lead to 41-32 with 3:06 remaining in the quarter, then it went to 11 on basket interference.

Morris looked to bring his team back in the game, scoring five straight to make it a 43-37 game.

A scary moment happened with 1:01 remaining in the third, when Flanigan looked to have seriously hurt his knee almost at mid court, but he got up a few seconds later and walked to the bench on his own. He checked back in a few seconds later.

Hanceville held a 45-39 lead after three, looking to pull off one of the biggest upsets in Regionals history and of the Bulldogs’ season.

A three by McDonald and a layup by Stanley pushed the Hanceville lead to 52-41 early in the fourth quarter, the biggest deficit Holly Pond faced all season. The Broncos tried to get back in the game, as a Kyler Chaney trey helped kick-start a 9-2 Bronco run; Zach Shaw and McKinley Garrett also chipped in. The Broncos’ deficit was down to just four, at 56-52, then it went to 58-55 on a Morris layup with 2:06 remaining in the game.

Hanceville countered with a huge and one by Damion Johnson on its next possession to make it a 61-55 game seven seconds later, and the Bulldogs didn't let Holly Pond get any closer as timely stops on defense, a layup by R. J. Evans and a pair from the line by Flanigan gave them the stunning upset win over the no. 5 Broncos.

McDonald finished with 14 points, four rebounds and a steal for the Bulldogs, who finished the game shooting 48 percent from the field and 40 percent from the 3-point line. Evans ended up with 11 points, nine in the second half, and added three boards and a steal. Morgan finished with 10 points and six boards. Johnson had a big game, collecting nine points, seven rebounds and two steals. Stanley and Flanigan each finished with eight points and seven rebounds. The former also added a couple of big blocks, while the latter added a pair of assists. Fred Ellis added three points, four rebounds, two assists and a steal. The Bulldogs’ defense held Holly Pond to just 30 percent from the field for the game.

Hanceville is now 19-9 on the season, and will face off against Lauderdale County on Wednesday at 2:15 p.m. with a trip to Birmingham on the line.

Morris finished with a game-high 24 points, four rebounds, three assists and a steal in his final game as a Bronco. Chaney had a big game as well, finishing with 16 points and eight boards. Jake Harris ended up with seven points and an assist. Boatright chipped in with five points and three rebounds. Garrett finished with four points, 10 rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal. Shaw ended up with three points, four rebounds and a steal.

Holly Pond's season ends with a record of 28-4. The Broncos will lose five seniors this season and will look to be even more motivated to go deep next year in 2018-2019.

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