Lady Tigers, Bulldogs come out on top in county rivalry action

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By Taylor Crombie

There’s always an air of excitement in county rivalry games and Friday night’s matchup between Wartburg and Sunbright was no exception. The Lady Tigers upset the Lady Bulldogs 49-41 to start the night, then the Bulldogs stole a 79-77 victory from the Tigers in the final seconds of the boys game.

The Lady Tigers made a huge splash in the district standings last week by defeating the Oneida Lady Indians last Tuesday on the road, then returning home to beat Wartburg on Friday.

“It’s a big win and a big week for us,” Sunbright coach Rusty Yaden said following Friday’s game.

With the pair of wins, Sunbright is now tied with Wartburg for first place in District 3-A.

Both the Lady Bulldogs and Lady Tigers started slow, but Wartburg took a 10-7 lead in the first quarter thanks to a 3-pointer from Madison Holley right before the end of the period.

Holley led Wartburg’s offense to an 11-3 point run at the start of the second quarter, scoring six points to help extend the Lady Bulldogs’ lead to 23-10.

But the Lady Bulldogs collapsed not long after and allowed the Lady Tigers to start making a comeback.

“I felt like we never had an edge again the rest of the game,” Wartburg coach Jason Davis said. “We kind of phoned it in at that point and that’s 100 percent unacceptable.”

Sunbright outscored Wartburg 11-6 for the remainder of the period, cutting the Lady Bulldogs’ lead down to 29-21 at halftime.

The Lady Tigers continued to grind through the third quarter, but still trailed 34-32 headed into the final frame. It didn’t take them very long to tie the game, then take over in the fourth quarter, though.

Makenna Brown sunk the game tying shot to open the fourth period, then Lauren Farmer hit a pair of free throws to give Sunbright a two-point lead. Hannah Hurtt made a shot to tie the game at 36, but Brown and Farmer hit back-to-back shots to give the Lady Tigers the lead once more.

The Lady Tigers outscored Wartburg 17-7 in the fourth quarter to pick up the 49-41 victory and hand the Lady Bulldogs their first district loss of the year.

Wartburg (41) Johnson 6, Holley 12, Hurtt 13, Williams 7, Armes 2, Gouge 1

Sunbright (49) Griffith 8, Farmer 16, Northrup 7, Shannon 3, Byrd 5, Brown 10.

The Tigers set out to bring the intensity against the visiting Bulldogs and did exactly that. While they couldn’t complete the sweep, the Tigers made Wartburg fight down until the last second to steal the 79-77 win.

“I told the guys that they were going to see a better basketball team,” Wartburg head coach Joe Layne said. “I said ‘you’re going to get their best game’ and we did. They played really well. They deserved to win the basketball game, we just were lucky to make a couple plays at the end and get the win.”

Sunbright put the pressure on the Bulldogs early and led 21-17 at the end of the first quarter.

Drent Brown got off to a hot start for the Tigers and led the team with 11 points after draining three triples in a row.

“He’s probably our best shooter on the team,” Sunbright head coach Thomas Davis said. “His confidence is getting better every game and that’s a turning point for him.”

Wartburg’s Dillion Fountain kept the score close with a team-leading nine points in the opening frame.

The Bulldogs scored nine unanswered points to kick off the second quarter and take the a 26-22 lead, but the Tigers got right back in and pulled away with a 41-36 lead at halftime.

John Freels led the Tigers in the second quarter with nine points, while Fountain led the Bulldogs again with seven.

The Bulldogs outscored the Tigers for the first time in the third quarter. Kirk Harlan and Fountain made it rain threes as the Bulldogs went on a 17-4 run, to give Wartburg a 53-45 lead. Sunbright got right back in it, though, and scored 10 unanswered points to regain the lead before the fourth quarter.

“I think they saw tonight that they could get down, have a run put on them and they could get back and play harder,” Davis said. “That’s what you want to do when you’re trying to build a basketball program.”

It was Hunter Bunch’s time to shine as he put up 10 points to help bring the score to 60-56 in favor of Sunbright.

There would be no big point runs from either team in the final period as Wartburg and Sunbright exchanged the lead right down until the end. Fountain led the charge for the Bulldogs and the Tigers didn’t have an answer for him.

After Josh Langley sunk a shot to give Sunbright the 75-73 lead, Fountain scored four points to put the Bulldogs back ahead.

Levi Daniel came in clutch for the Tigers with a basket to tie the game 77-77 with 10 seconds remaining, but the Bulldogs were bound and determined to keep the game from going into overtime.

After Layne called a time out to rally the team, the Bulldogs charged down the floor, hoping to make one more shot before time expired. Fountain went up for the layup and missed, but pulled down his own rebound. He threw up another shot and made it to win the game 79-77.

Davis called timeout with 0.8 seconds left on the clock in effort to give Sunbright one last opportunity to tie the game, but Wartburg’s defense didn’t give the Tigers a chance to get down the floor in time to make a shot.

While Layne was very happy to pick up the win and hold onto fourth place in the district, he was the first to admit that it wasn’t the Bulldogs best game of the year.

“We weren’t playing well and a lot of that had to do with Sunbright,” Layne said. “They were taking it at us on both ends of the floor. We weren’t into a good flow and defensively we were just not good.”

“Even on nights when you don’t play well, you’ve got to hang around, figure out how to get to the finish and have a chance, and we did that.”

Davis was disappointed with the loss, but extremely proud of the way the Tigers fought and hopes that the team will use it as a learning experience.

“Games like that, they’re tough and heartbreaking, but you hope the kids learn from them and they experience that so it’ll help them down the road,” he said. “To me that felt like a district tournament game and I’m sure Coach Layne would say the same.”

Fountain led the Bulldogs and all scorers by a long shot with 41 points. Brown and Bunch both put up 15 points to lead the Tigers, while Langley was right behind him with 14. Bohanan, Freels and Harlan all scored 13 points.

Wartburg (79) Decker 3, Davidson 3, Harlan 13, Justes 11, Fountain 41, Constant 4, Branstetter 4.

Sunbright (77) Hammock 4, Daniel 3, Brown 15, Langley 14, Bunch 15, Freels 13, Bohanan 13.