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Challenge accepted: Bulldogs one win away from regular season championship after knocking off Daleville

The Pike County boys basketball team will play for a regular season area championship on Friday thanks to a 54-35 win over rival Dale County on Monday evening in Brundidge.

The Bulldogs remain undefeated and a win against Houston Academy will clinch the one-seed in the upcoming area tournament.

“It sets us up to go down to Houston Academy and possibly take the outright area championship,” said head coach Doug Holland. “It’s going to be tough down there. We are looking for a really competitive game.”

On Monday, the Bulldogs stressed defense and, after a methodical start to the game, used a strong second quarter to pull away from the rival Warhawks.

“We talked about being patient first and then picking up our tempo,” Holland said. “Coming out in a full-court trap, I felt like our legs were under us. We had a lot of days to rest so I thought that was going to be key for us.”

Andres Burney and Xavier Newson have been forces in the front court for the Bulldogs all season. After what Holland called a passive performance on Saturday, he challenged the players to step up on Monday night.

“I challenged them to challenge every shot,” Holland said. “I challenged, when the ball was kicked out, to trap in the corners. They did a good job at that tonight.”

The Bulldogs also stayed out of foul trouble. In the second half, the Bulldogs committed just one foul.

“Any time we stay out of foul trouble it can dictate how we play,” Holland said, “Sometimes when you get into early foul trouble, we like to press, it kind of slows us down. Then we have to change what we want to do.”

Jahzarian Lampley and Burney led the way for the Bulldogs in the opening quarter by scoring 9 of the team’s 18 points. The Bulldogs closed out the opening quarter on a 10-0 run and took an 18-5 lead into the second quarter. The run was extended to 13-0 before the Warhawks were able to get back on the board.

The Bulldogs led by as many as 16 points in the second half before entering halftime with a 27-12 lead.

Burney controlled the game in the second half. The big man scored 7 points in the third quarter and after the Bulldogs went into the fourth leading 42-23, he added 7 more.

“We challenged him to make his presence known,” Holland said. “He doesn’t have to do it on offense, but I want them to know of his presence down low.”

Burney finished the game with 18 points, while Lampley had 14.

The Bulldogs will conclude area play on Friday and Holland expressed the importance of winning that game.

“It’s going to be big,” Holland said. “You don’t want to go to a coin flip (to decide who hosts area), considering how hard you worked and the schedule you played. It’s going to be big to go down there and knock them off.”