ELIZABETHTON — There were some positives for Hampton, but leaving the door cracked at the end is not on any coach’s wish list.
“When you get a team down, you’ve got to put them away,” said Bulldogs’ head coach Ned Smith.
Hampton earned a 59-51 win, but saw an 18-point lead with 2:19 left in the game shrink all the way to two possessions (57-51) with 19 seconds remaining.
The Bulldogs improved to 4-3 on the season while Happy Valley slipped to 2-4.
After a tight first quarter, Hampton took command with a 21-6 second-quarter blitz. Included in that stretch was a 10-0 run where Hampton had its way with the Warriors.
The Bulldogs did it with defense.
“Overall I thought our pressure defense was good,” said Smith. “Together with going to the offensive boards in the first half was a big difference.”
Happy Valley turned the ball over 25 times in the game.
“The first quarter was good and we moved the ball well,” said Warriors’ head coach Charlie Bayless. “In the second quarter we went crazy and threw the ball away. With all those turnovers; you can’t play like that.”
It was 31-19 at halftime, and the Warriors cut the deficit to nine early in the second half. However, Hampton closed the quarter with a 14-6 run to push its advantage to 46-29 heading into the fourth quarter.
A 6-0 spurt midway through the fourth quarter pushed Hampton out to a 56-38 lead. But things changed quickly.
The Warriors stepped up the pressure and went on a 13-1 run to make things very interesting. Overtime wasn’t even out of the question.
“We made a good comeback,” said Bayless. “We pressed them at the end and they made a lot of mistakes. We might have to change our defense and press more and play more boys.”
Three Hampton players finished with 10 points apiece. Johnny Fields totaled 10 points and four blocked shots while Wesley Murray and Lane Smith each chipped in with double digits. Cody McClain added nine points and six assists.
“Fields played really well,” said Smith. “He’s a good force inside. He put the ball in the hole, had four blocks and altered some shots, too.”
Donivan Grindstaff led Happy Valley with 16 points.