Hounds - Polar Bears: Battle To Get Out of Basement.
J. C. Tilton
The Dixie Grey Hounds have been on a skid in December -managing just one win, and Northridge has not managed to do much better with a 2-7 overall record. Both teams were winless in league play coming into Friday nights action. So this was a game of pride, and perhaps a flicker of a turn around for one or the other's teams fortunes. Dixie had a 2 week break and worked hard to redefine their team. Although they lost to Carlisle coming out of the break, would this game show that the changes are having an effect?
Dixie fed off of the crowds enthusiasm and opened an early lead, at the midpoint of the first quarter they were up 8-2. But the Polar Bears charged back in the last half of the quarter thanks to Tim Thomason's 3 treys to lead at the end of the quarter 17-12. Clearly Dixie would need to make an adjustment to put an end to his scoring, or the game would quickly get out of reach. Dixie had opened with a mtm defense and would mix in full court pressure and a half court trapping defense as the game progressed. Northridge played mainly zone for most of the game.
Dixie was able to adjust and limit Thomason to just one trey for the remaining three quarters.
In the first quarter Northridge was trying to be physical and use their bigger post players to score. However the aggressive play in the paint netted them 2 charges in the first quarter. Also Northridge wanted to dominate the paint on the defensive end of the court. But Dixie kept knifing to the basket from the wings, and the Northridge big men began to pile up the fouls. Dixie was making trips to the foul line, but only netted 9 points out of 22 attempts. The difference in the game was the run that Dixie made in last two minutes of the half. The score was knotted at 21 all. The Dixie defense had been unrelenting and now Northridge made some mental mistakes. 5 different Dixie players would convert these mistakes into points as McBain, Eldred, Moore, and Adams would all score to put Dixie up 30-21 to give the Hounds the lead and the momentum going into the locker room.
In the third quarter Dixie maintained their lead. They stopped their press for a time about midway thru the period. Dixie's Eldred kept the Hounds in the lead by scoring 7 points in this stretch, all but two from free throws. Northridge got organized with a few minutes left and began to chip away at the Dixie lead closing to within 5 at the quarters end. But Northridge's post man John Barlow fouled out towards the end of the quarter.
The 4th quarter began with Northridge showing that they were not about to roll over. Thomason hit a shot from the field and Jon Birden hit a free throw to pull Northridge with in 2. Also Johnny Adams got his 4th foul early in the 4th, so it was gut check time for the Dixie team. Zach Eldred rose to the occasion with a basket, then on the next possession he was fouled and sunk a shot to put Dixie up by 5. Now it was time for McBain and bench player Ben Risner to go to work. Dixie was back in their press, Northridge did a better job of breaking it, but Dixie still got some turnovers and slowed down their game. The Polar Bears tied up the middle, but Risner and McBain picked their spots and either hit from the baseline or drove thru a gap to score. McBain and Risner would score 6 points apiece in the stretch for Dixie. Although Spahr fouled out for Dixie in the waning minutes, the damage had already been done - Dixie would extend their lead and win their first game of the new year 60-49.
Coach Randy Etter was elated that the transformation that the team worked on over the holidays is starting to have some effect. “That was our focus, to get the ball inside”. Despite Northridge's 3 good sized post players, Dixie was able to move the ball and exploit opportunities to work the ball inside. This was the first game that I saw after the break and playing style was definitely different from December. The team was driving to the basket and played really intense defense on the other half of the court. Dixie has risen from the basement, hopefully they can carry this momentum into the second half of the season.
Scoring: Eldred 18, Adams 15, McBain 13, Risner 9, Spahr 6, Moore 1. Comments: email: Chris Tilton