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Hampton downs University High for Region 1-A boys title

Jeff Birchfield • Mar 5, 2020 at 9:56 PM

MORRISTOWN — Hampton built a big lead and held off a late University High rally in Thursday night’s Region 1-A boys basketball championship game at Walters State Community College.

The Bulldogs pulled out to a 14-point lead on two occasions, including early in the fourth quarter. Once in command, they milked the clock for part of the fourth quarter before putting the game away with some late free throws in a 60-51 victory.

Hampton (25-10) will host Harriman in a sectional game next Monday. University High (20-11) will go on the road to face Oneida.

“We didn’t match their intensity tonight,” University High coach Herman Rice said. “They got on us early and we didn’t respond. The last six minutes of the game, we started playing with some effort — but we gave up too many easy baskets. We didn’t execute very well, but give them credit.

“They’re a great team and hopefully we will both be headed to (the state tournament in) Murfreesboro.”

One week after Kaleb Meredith hit a 3-point shot at the buzzer to lift UH over Hampton in the District 1-A championship and two nights after he scored 38 against Jellico, the Bulldogs held the UH star to 16 points. They also held star guard Marshall Fleenor to four, which was by design according to Hampton coach Ned Smith.

“We tried our best to guard Meredith and Fleenor. They’re two of the best players around,” Smith said. “We keyed on them. You hold them to 20 points and you’ve done pretty good where you have a chance to win.”

Caleb Oaks was 8 of 8 from the field to lead Hampton with 16 points. Oaks talked about the Bulldogs being able to attack the basket. His two layups late in the game gave Hampton some needed breathing room.

“I thought those two wide-open layups sealed the deal,” Oaks said. “We let a lot of screens in the middle and we had some backdoor cuts when they gambled. So we got a little ‘shake and bake’ with the backdoor. We wanted the sub-state at home and we’re excited.”

Tournament MVP Rocky Croy totaled 11 points and 10 rebounds for the Bulldogs, while Conor Jones also finished with 11 points. Izaak Hill added eight points.

“We knew we had a size advantage so we started attacking the rack,” Croy said. “They couldn’t stop us in there. We worked hard, it all came together and we won that one. ”

University High got 12 points from Mason Broome and seven from Bill Goines in the loss.

Other than a short stretch of trying to take time off the clock, the Bulldogs stayed in attack mode. They attempted only four shots behind the 3-point line and held a decided 34-14 rebounding advantage.

“I thought we took it to the hole,” Smith said. “The penetration was a big difference. The kids went up strong and put it in the hole.”

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