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Opinion: Bulldogs growing as team

Bobby Mathews, The Messenger

The Pike County Bulldogs grew up a little bit Friday night.

The Bulldogs trailed Luverne into the fourth quarter, until Quay Bailey put Pike County on top, 43-41, with about five minutes left to play. The Bulldogs would never trail again.

&uot;We needed this one,&uot; Pike County coach Julius Young told me afterward.

He’s right – they did. The Bulldogs had the strongest season of any boys’ team from the county, but they’d faltered lately and lost a chance to host the area tournament when Straughn beat them a week ago.

&uot;Beat&uot; is too strong a word. Straughn had an answer for everything the Bulldogs did. It wasn’t a blowout, but it was an ugly loss on Pike County’s home court. You can bet that loss still stings.

Things looked much the same Friday. Luverne was pressuring Pike County into mistake after mistake, using a half-court press and crisp passing to move the ball around. Pike County was trying to do too much, especially in the first half.

But when the Bulldogs played under control, they began to come back. Bailey had 18 points to lead all scorers, and 16 of those points came from the free-throw line.

&uot;I felt like free throws were going to win it,&uot; he said. &uot;They were stopping me, so I was just trying to draw contact.&uot;

And with both teams in the bonus, Bailey came through. In the fourth quarter, he scored 10 points – all free throws.

&uot;He came through huge for us tonight,&uot; a jubilant Young said in the locker room.

Of course, the Bulldogs had help from Luverne to get back in the game. Back-to-back technical fouls in the second period seemed to unnerve the visitors. Those fouls took a six point lead back to two when Bailey converted both free shots.

Tevin Andrews scored 16 and had the building rocking with a thunderous dunk in the third quarter.

The X-factor for the Bulldogs is senior George Wilson. Wilson moves with fluidity and grace, and his point production is usually key. If he’s having a good game, the Bulldogs are likely going to win.

But Friday night, the Bulldogs won without Wilson having a strong game. Instead, Bailey did what all good athletes have to do in order to become great – he stepped up. Bailey’s play in the clutch is what gave Pike County the confidence – the will – to win.

I’m writing this at about 9 a.m. Saturday morning. Obviously I don’t know the outcome of the Pike County-Goshen matchup tonight. But if the Bulldogs win, then they’re working up a head of steam to go into the area tournament at Straughn on Friday.

Sports editor Bobby Mathews can be reached at bobby.mathews@troymessenger.com or 670-6315.