Bulldogs hold on to defeat Hillcrest for region title

Published 9:53 pm Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Pike County Bulldogs stamped their ticket to the Class 3A Final Four in Birmingham after defeating the Hillcrest-Evergreen Jaguars 60-52 Wednesday to claim the region championship.

After falling a year ago in the same game the Bulldogs pushed through and are headed to the first final four in school history.

“We talked about it all year, (getting to Birmingham),” said Bulldogs head coach Doug Holland. “I told my guys we were one of the better teams here this year. I am proud of our team.

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It was never good enough for the Bulldogs to make it back to Dothan; they wanted to advance.

“We talked about this at the end of the game last year,” Holland said. “I wasn’t satisfied with just being here. I wanted to get to the next level, and they did that.”

Seniors Jerrell Lawson, Deshon Cowling and Khamir Jackson combined to score 44 of the team’s 60 points.

“It’s what I expected of them,” Holland said. “They lead by example. They are great players, and they are coaches on the floor.”

Cowling attributed the trio’s impact to teamwork. “Everybody needs teamwork to be able to go somewhere. My team goes hard 24/7 and they make me go hard.”

Jackson led the way for the Bulldogs with 18 points while Cowling and Lawson finished with 14 and 12.

“We came in and we knew they were going to take it to us,” Jackson said. “That was a bad feeling last year; we didn’t want to feel it again. I am really emotional right now. I am just proud we got the win.”

Cowling connected on two three-pointers against the Jaguars.

“That is my role,” Cowling said. “My team wants me to shoot and just happen to have the hot hand. I owe it to my team, because they open things up for me.”

After falling behind 2-0 to begin the game, the Bulldogs held on to the lead and never let it up. They outscored the Jaguars 17-8 in the opening quarter.

Both teams struggled to score in the second quarter, and the Bulldogs held a 20-15 lead at halftime.

In the third quarter the Bulldogs slammed down on the accelerator and increased their lead out to 15 points after a they began the half on a 7-0 run.

“We moved some people around in our trap,” Holland said. “We always talk about starting fast coming out of the half. That is how we played all year long.”

Lawson and Juhmir Lampley named to the all region tournament team and Cowling and Jackson were named co-MVPs.

“It’s a good feeling,” Cowling said. “These guys are crazy. I can see it in their eyes that these guys like to work, and they make me want to work.”

The Bulldogs will play Madison Academy at 10:30 a.m. on March 1 at BJCC Arena.