LIVINGSTON – In Doyle’s District 10-2A opener against St. Helena, a few little things added up to a loss for the Tigers.
Doyle led early but fell behind and never fully recovered in a 46-41 loss to the Hawks on Tuesday.
“Rebounds and free throws and turnovers, that’s how you play the game of basketball, how you look to see who wins and loses,” Doyle coach Daniel Kennedy said. “I was very proud of our guys with their effort in the second half and showing some determination, some toughness, to give themselves a chance to win.”
The Tigers trailed by as much as 12 points in the third quarter but whittled the lead to 32-29 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Hawks missed a pair of 3-pointers before hitting a putback to pull ahead 36-29. From there, the Tigers cut the lead to three points twice – the last time at 38-35 on Bo Ellzey’s bucket.
St. Helena’s Devin Hopkins hit three free throws, helping the Hawks grab a 41-37 lead. Tyson Stewart got Doyle within 41-39 but missed a free throw to complete a three-point play with 51 seconds left.
Hopkins then hit both ends of a one-and-one to pad the lead, and Stewart missed another free throw and was unable to complete another three-point play, leaving the Tigers trailing 43-41.
“I was just trying to bounce back and just trying to do what the team needs,” said Stewart after the Tigers went 7-for-17 at the free-throw line. “It just all comes down to free throws at the end. If we knock down free throws, we would have won this game.
“We’re probably going to be doing that (free throws) all day tomorrow at practice.”
Doyle’s Eli Dawsey pulled down the rebound on Stewart’s missed free throw, but the Tigers turned the ball over on a pass out of bounds with 23.4 seconds left.
“Obviously it’s a bad turnover, and it’s a huge momentum killer because we just cut it to two and we get the ball back,” Kennedy said of the play. “He was open. We just didn’t make a good pass, and hey, I probably should have called timeout. I could have called timeout as soon as we got the rebound and tried to set something up, but their defense wasn’t set, and I obviously wish I could go back and call that timeout because I didn’t know we were going to turn it over.”
Hopkins, who led the Hawks with 15 points, hit a pair of free throws, and a 3-point attempt by Doyle’s Cameron Jones rimmed out. The Hawks came down with the rebound, and George Earlycutt’s free throw with 8.9 seconds to play was the game’s last point.
St. Helena went 12-for-23 from the line.
Doyle (11-7, 0-1) trailed 23-16 at halftime and by as many as 12 points (29-17) in the third quarter before chipping away at the lead.
Stewart connected on three free throws, keying a run which enabled the Tigers to cut the lead to 30-29 on Jones’ inside basket. Hopkins hit two free throws, and the Hawks came up with a steal before heading into the fourth quarter with a 32-29 lead.
The Tigers held a slim 7-5 lead early in the game before the Hawks went on a 10-2 run to close out the first half, primarily by out-rebounding the Tigers under the basket.
While Kennedy was pleased with his team’s rebounding effort in the second half, that wasn’t the case early.
“It doesn’t take size to block somebody out,” Kennedy said. “But when you stand and watch the flight of the ball and just think the ball is going to come to you, that’s a problem. Obviously, it’s not that we don’t do blocking out and rebounding drills everyday. You preach to them that’s the No. 1 key to the game is keeping them off the boards and limiting them to one shot. It’s unfortunate that I don’t think we’ve gotten better at that, and that is such a huge part of what’s going to make us a really good basketball team. You’ve got to be committed to that, and we’re not.”
St. Helena led by 10 twice – the last time at 23-13 on Jesse Riley’s inside basket – before Jones’ 3-pointer cut the lead to 23-16 at halftime.
Dawsey led Doyle with 15 points, including seven in the first quarter, while Jones and Stewart each scored eight.
Kennedy is well aware the Tigers have a little extra work to put in as district play continues.
“I don’t think there’s a district game for us that’s going to be won or lost by more than 10 points, and I told those guys that before the game and again reminded them afterward,” Kennedy said. “Every game is going to be a fight, and you have to do those little things every single time if you want to come out on the winning side of it.
"There’s not going to be a district championship handed out (Tuesday) night," Kennedy said. "It is a long season, because it’s going to be tough for everybody. I really doubt that anybody’s going undefeated. Now if you tuck your head and feel sorry for yourself, then shame on you because it’s wide open. But you’ve got to be man enough to look at yourself in the mirror and correct the things that you can correct, and we can correct our stuff.”
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