Bulldog swingman Marcus Saunders #32 slices through the Jaguar defense for two of his game high 16 points leading the Dawgs to a 41-39 win over Desert Pines. Photo by Lou Martin

Bulldog tenacity stuns Jaguars
You could tell by the swagger in their steps as they entered the gym, the Jaguars from Desert Valley High School, did not expect to lose to the Bulldogs from Virgin Valley High School Tuesday night. In fact, other than Bulldog Coach Sean FitzSimons, almost everyone in the gym was hoping for a more competitive game than in past encounters. These were the Jaguars who were 36-0 over three years of Division 1-A play.

When the screaming stopped, the Bulldogs, behind the play of Marcus Saunders and Cody Burnside, had their hands raised in complete exuberance as they had just slain Goliath 41-39. Saunders had 16 points and six rebounds to lead the Dawgs followed by Burnside with 10 points, five rebounds and three huge blocks.
Bulldog fans should take notice as this was the signature game for coach FitzSimons’ basketball program at Virgin Valley. “I told the kids before the game, contest all shots, stick to the game plan, they are overlooking you, and remember anything is possible,” said FitzSimons. The win clinched a playoff spot for the Bulldogs.

FitzSimons’ game plan was apparent on their first possession, as they spread the floor, daring the Jaguars to play Bulldog ball. “I told the kids use the clock, take a minute or so on our possessions and limit the Jaguars high scoring team to lesser possessions in the game,” added FitzSimons. The play worked as the first period ended in a 5-5 score as the frustrated Jaguars made numerous turnovers in their attempt to get the Dawgs into a hurry-up game.

The Bulldogs’ zone defense continued to rattle the Jaguars in the second period forcing up bad shots well the Dawgs behind two great steals and subsequent lay-ups from Saunders and Zack Barnum gave the Dawgs the momentum and a 21-13 lead at the break. Saunders had 6 points in the period followed by Burnside and Barnum with 4 each.

The Bulldogs were held to 5 points, all by Saunders, in the third period by a stepped up press by the Jaguars. The problem for the Jaguars, they only managed 6 points of their own. The score stood at 26-19 after three periods.

The Jaguars hit the first five points of the fourth period to cut the Dawgs lead to 26-24 before Bulldog guard surprised the taller Jaguars, splitting their defense with a driving lay-up. Saunders followed with a jump shot giving the Dawgs a 30-24 advantage. In what could have been the turning point of the game, Bulldog stalwart Keegan Biasi took an apparent charge from Jaguar star guard Coby Myles, which was called a block as the crowd yelled in disapproval. To make matters worse, Biasi was called for a technical for his reaction and was removed from the game. To make matters even more distraught for the Dawgs, Myles was given four attempts from the free throw line. The ref had called it a shooting foul instead as he thought that Myles had gotten the ball off to the dismay of the Bulldog faithful. Myles hit three free throws and followed up with a steal and lay-up cutting the Dawgs lead to 30-29. The teams would battle back and forth the rest of the period. Burnside hit for 4 points and added a block shot as the Dawgs led 40-34. The Jaguars as champions do, took it to the Dawgs, hitting 5 unanswered points making the score 40-39 with 13 seconds remaining in the game.

The Dawgs missed two straight one and one free throws to the consternation of the Bulldog fans before Saunders hit one of two increasing the Dawgs lead to 41-39. Coach FitzSimons screamed to no avail, do not foul, but they did with three seconds remaining. Jaguar Myles stepped up to the line for two shots in an attempt to tie the game and send it into overtime. His first shot went in and then rolled out as the gym roared in approval. Myles had no choice but to miss the next throw and hope for a rebound and a put back. They got the shot but it clinked off the rim and the game ended. The Bulldogs and their fans went wild embracing each other in disbelief. After the game, Coach FitzSimons told his kids, “We’re in the playoffs. We beat Desert Pines and now you know you can play with any of the teams in our league.” The Bulldogs end the regular season against Boulder City Thursday night in the Dawg House before beginning tournament play.