DECATUR – After hitting just one basket from the field in the second quarter and scoring just 11 points over the course of the second and third quarters, Bellmont finally got hot in the fourth quarter, exploding for 24 points in the final period against visiting New Haven.
But the Bulldogs had built themselves a big enough lead (12 points at the end of the third quarter) and hit enough free throws down the stretch (seven of their 20 fourth-quarter points came from the line) to walk away with a 53-45 win.
“I told them coming out that we had to win the third quarter. I guess I should have told them the fourth, also,” New Haven coach Bruce Stephens joked. “I will give credit: that No. 12 (Bellmont senior guard Tyler James), even with a hand in his face, he was lighting it up.”
New Haven (11-5, 5-1 NE8) entered the fourth quarter with a 33-21 lead, but as soon as the period started James hit a 3-pointer to cut the Bulldogs' lead to single digits. The Braves (10-6, 4-2 NE8) called a timeout as soon as James hit the shot, and just moments later Stephens called a timeout for New Haven.
“I figured, coming out of timeout, they were going to go to man, or they were going to trap us. And they actually did have something set up for a trap,” Stephens said. “We had something set up, we threw it in, threw it back out to the point, and were able to get a back-door alley-oop.”
New Haven junior guard Jakar Williams was the one who went up for the alley-oop, drawing a huge response from the Bulldogs' bench as they went back up by 11 points. James retorted with another bucket (he scored 11 of his game-leading 17 points in the fourth quarter), and then New Haven junior guard Jackson Turnwald hit a 3-pointer, his fourth of the night.
And that is largely how the rest of the fourth quarter continued, with the Braves cutting the Bulldogs' lead to single digits only for New Haven to distance itself once again.
James scored the final six points for the Braves, and New Haven's Darrion Brooks scored the final five points of the game for the Bulldogs. The sophomore, who scored just two points in the first three quarters, attempted seven free throws in the final quarter. He finished with eight points.
The game opened with a 3-pointer by New Haven senior Thomas Latham and then another by Turnwald that gave the Bulldogs a quick 6-0 lead. New Haven led 15-10 at the end of the first quarter and 22-14 heading into halftime.
“We were able to hold them to seven points in the third quarter, and I thought in the first half, a lot of the points they got just because there were loose balls that we didn't get and they were able to finish,” Stephens said.
New Haven senior Dre Wright was regularly able to cut down the lane and right to the basket, which allowed him to finish with a team-high 14 points. Turnwald finished with 12 points, Williams with 10 and Latham with nine.
Isaiah Wellman and Caden Staub each scored eight for the Braves.