Prior to the Jan. 8 game between Virgin Valley and Chaparral high schools, there were three undefeated teams atop the 1A Sunrise Conference standings. Now there are two as the Bulldogs played their best all-around game of the year, out-hustling the Cowboys for a 61-48 win.
Leading a balanced attack were Marcus Saunders with 16 points and 9 rebounds, Hogan Fowles with 14 points, Andrew Memmott with 11 points. Guards Zach Barnum and Jarrett Tietjen added 9 points apiece for the Dawgs offense.
The first half was a battle as the teams traded scores with the Cowboys on top after one period 15-14. Memmott and Fowles hit big three’s keeping the Dawgs close. Memmott took over the offense in the second period with seven points including another three. Bulldog coach Sean FitzSimons called timeout with 35 seconds remaining in the half to set up a final shot with the score tied 27-27. The play worked as Saunders hit a big three giving the Dawgs a 30-27 lead at the break.
A confident Bulldog squad took the floor to begin the second half but fell behind 32-30 on two quick baskets by Cowboy sharp shooter Samuel Porras. Two baskets by Barnum and a slashing layup by Saunders put the Dawgs back on top 36-34. The Cowboys tied the game 36-36 before the Dawgs went on a 12-0 run to end the period with a 48-36 lead to the delight of the Bulldog faithful. Saunders and Tietjen split the Cowboy defense with slashing baskets during the run.
Turnovers by the Bulldogs brought the Cowboys close at 52-46 before FitzSimons called time with 1:45 remaining to calm down his troops. You live by the three point shot or you die as the Cowboys threw clunkers hoping to cut the Dawgs lead. The Bulldogs calmly hit seven of eight free throws down the stretch for the 61-48 win.
“We executed well with our 1-3-1 defense trapping the Cowboys in the corner,” FitzSimons said. “The team came together mentally early in the third period when the Cowboys threatened and we went on an 18-9 run.”
The win kept the Dawgs on top of the league standings with a 5-0 record. Virgin Valley will host the other undefeated league team Desert Pines on Jan. 15. The Jaguars are a state powerhouse and are looking for revenge as the Dawgs upset them last year.