Defensive adjustments by the Panthers and turnover troubles plagued the Blue Devils through the final three quarters, resulting in a 56-52 loss to end the season a little sooner than Bremen coach Billy Pollard envisioned.
“We just didn’t handle the ball well. I’ve always took pride in in-bounds plays and we had maybe four or five five-second violations. That is very rare for us. Very rare,” Pollard said. “You know, you’re playing in a gym that’s hard to hear in and we weren’t communicating well with each other on the floor. The same thing defensively there at the end when we didn’t match up because nobody is communicating with each other. Just a lack of communication, and that falls on my shoulders.”
The Blue Devils (9-16) broke out with an 18-0 run in the first quarter to take a 20-8 advantage into the second period — knocking down four 3-pointers during the spurt — but the Panthers (5-17) implemented a full-court press that got them back in the ball game.
Chattahoochee County eventually pulled all the way back to even at 25-all before the Blue Devils got a pair of Nick Forrister free throws for the two-point halftime advantage. And while it was clinging to a slim lead, Pollard wasn’t happy about his ball club not taking care of the ball against the press.
“They sat back in that zone to start out with and we were shooting it well and they went full-court man and we didn’t step up and handle the pressure like we should,” Pollard said.
Both teams traded 10-0 runs in the third quarter, with the Blue Devils owning the 39-38 edge entering the fourth. The Panthers built as much as a seven-point lead at 51-44 before Bremen answered with four free throws and Trent McClure knocked down a trey with 1:35 remaining to knot the game up at 51-all.
On the ensuing possession, though, the Blue Devils lost Panther forward Jamaris Jones under the bucket for an easy layup with 1:16 on the clock, which proved to be the decisive score. The Blue Devils got their last point on a Daulton Pope free throw, while Cory Dixon delivered the dagger for the Panthers, knocking down a trey with just under a minute to go for the final four-point margin.
Dixon led all scorers with 17 points and five rebounds, while Jones added 10 points for the Panthers. McClure led Bremen with 15 points, with Forrister chipping in 11, Pope posting 10, Rusty Clark adding nine and Josh Johnson finishing with six points and six rebounds.
Pollard said it would be tough to bid farewell to the Blue Devils’ five seniors after the four-point heartbreaker.
“This is going to be hard for them to take in. After 12 years of doing it, it still hurts to end the season,” Pollard said.