Hilldale 56, Wagoner 52
Hilldale’s Chandler Puckett only scored six points for the Hornets, but his four points in the last three minutes of the game gave the Hornets the edge they needed as they held off the Wagoner Bulldogs for both teams’ opening game Friday night at the Hilldale Event Center.
“You can tell this was our first game and that we were a bit rusty out there,” said Hornets coach Jeremy Rogers. “It’s sweet to show the heart we did and get that first win.”
Kendall Cook did all he could for the Bulldogs, leading the visitors on a furious comeback effort with eight of his game-high 19 points in the final period and overtook the home team 51-49 with 4:02 left to play. Cook also had 10 rebounds on the night.
Just after Cook gave the Bulldogs their first lead of the night, Puckett went to work for the Hornets.
Both teams got off to a slow start, combining for just nine points with five minutes gone. Then the Hornets’ Hunter Howe went to work, pumping in 14 of the teams 19 points and a 19-14 first quarter lead.
The Hornets’ defense did its part by forcing 15 first-half turnovers but both offenses went cold for nearly six minutes. The Hornets did close out the first half on a 6-0 run and a 31-24 halftime advantage.
“We did a good job forcing turnovers but we didn’t capitalize on them very well, we have to do that better,” said Rogers. “Some of our guys are still learning the system and have just come from football so we’re a bit behind there.”
Building their biggest lead of the night, Derek Holmes added a pair and give the Hornets a 35-24 lead with 6:53 to go in the third quarter.
Cook and company slowly chipped away at the Hornets lead, then made their move with a 11-2 run to end the third quarter and open the fourth pulling even at 49-49. Cook nailed a floater with 3:19 left in the game for the lead, as short lived as it was.
“We are a small team and they had a lot of height advantage on us but we just have to work at getting position and have to do a better job of beating them down low,” said Rogers.
Even though the Hornets owned the turnover margin 23-8, the Bulldogs held the rebounding advantage 44-20 on the night.
Ya’Aquook King added 10 points and 14 rebounds for the Bulldogs as Bill Muse contributed 12 points on the night for the Hornets.