The battle of the Valleys was all it was expected to be Thursday night in the Kirk Brotherson Gym as the Bulldogs outlasted archrival Moapa Valley by a score of 66-56. The game was closer than the final score indicates as the Dawgs pulled away on free throws in the final quarter. “I expected a war despite the records of each team,” said Bulldog Coach Sean FitzSimons. Five Bulldogs were in double figures at games end with guard Zach Barnum leading the way with 16 points.
The Bulldogs jumped out to an early lead 9-2 behind balanced scoring. The Pirates as expected cut the Dawgs lead to 10-7 before Bulldog swing man Marcus Saunders drove for two and added a free throw to end the first quarter with the Dawgs up 13-9. Saunders had five points to lead the Dawgs.
The Dawgs two-three defense could not stop the suddenly hot hand of Pirate guard Andrew Huerta as he buried four three pointers in the second period. Teammate Jay Mortensen added two more from long range to give the Pirates a 30-25 lead at the break. The Bulldogs managed only two field goals in the second period but went 8-12 from the line. The Pirates aggressive play controlled the tempo of the game but sent five Bulldogs to the line.
The Bulldogs reasserted themselves in the third period as coach FitzSimons switched to a man defense. “I told the kids at the half this is not Bulldog Basketball,” added, coach FitzSimons. “We need to step up and play man defense the rest of the way.” Bulldog guard Jarett Tietjen and center Cody Burnside started the ball rolling scoring the first 10 points of the third to cut the Pirates lead to 36-33. Bulldog reserve Andrew Memmott hit a big three to give the Dawgs a 38-37 lead, halfway through the third period to the delight of the Bulldog faithful. Bulldog guard Barnum scorched the Pirates driving for three layups and six points giving the Dawgs a 46-41 lead after three.
The Pirates cut the Dawgs’ lead to 46-44 on bomb from Huerta before the Dawgs recovered to lead once again 54-46. The Pirates moved to within 55-51 with a few minutes remaining in the game. The aggressive Pirates sent Bulldog Cody Jones to the line three times at the end of the game. Jones iced six points and Burnside added two more making the final score 66-56. Bulldogs Jones and Saunders had 12 points each for the game followed by Tietjen with 11 and Burnside with 10 points. The Dawgs went 28 of 43 from the line to the Pirates 6 of 15 which was the difference in the game. Jones led the way with 12 of 14 free throws. “I’m looking forward to the rematch in January,” said FitzSimons. The Dawgs’ record now stands at 2-1 in league play and 4-7 overall. The Dawgs will have one final match of 2014 on December 30 at Desert Hills (Utah).