R.C. Hatch holds off Keith despite losing leader Campbell

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Frankie Sullivan and Darryl Wilson went 7-for-8 from the free throw line as the R.C. Hatch Bobcats escaped the den of the Keith Bears with a 55-48 win Saturday night in Orrville.

The Uniontown squad captured the Class 2-A Area 5 championship in the process.

The fourth-ranked Bobcats jumped all over Keith early as Sullivan and Quinton Collins hit back-to-back 3-pointers to fire up the Uniontown faithful.

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Billy Campbell and Calvin Pope controlled the paint on both ends as the Cats built a 14-7 first quarter lead.

Hatch employed a box-and-one defense on Keith’s leading scorer, Charles Jones, that rattled coach Joseph Pettway’s young Bears.

But the savvy

Keith coach, who led Wilcox-Central to the 2000 5-A state championship, is adept at making mid-game adjustments.

He moved Jones to the low post and the junior scorer muscled his way for eight of his game-high 16 points in the second quarter keeping the Bears within striking distance.

His play in the paint was key as he picked up several fouls on Hatch star Billy Campbell who went into half time with four.

Jones converted an old-fashioned 3-point play and drove the baseline for another bucket that cut a thirteen point half time deficit to 31-23 one minute into the second half.

Campbell fouled out in the process and things looked bleak for the Perry County Cats.

Rebounding machine Jeremiah Whitt had three putbacks for the Bears and closed Keith to within 36-33 midway through the quarter.

The Bears’ suffocating full court press created several Bobcat turnovers and sophomore big man Lewis Lee’s tip-in at the buzzer left Hatch clinging to a 42-41 lead entering the final period.

Pope stuck back a rebound and took a feed from Frederick Lewis to give the Cats breathing room at 46-41 with just under six minutes to play.

But the Bears’ trapping defense kept them close.

Jones again found the bottom of the net on a power move over two Bobcats.

Exhausted of their timeouts, the Cats were whistled for a technical foul after signalling for one on an inbounds attempt.

Jones knocked down the two technicals pulling the Bears within 50-48 at the 2:33 mark.

Reserve guard Darryl Wilson made the game’s biggest play on the next two possessions.

His steal and subsequent foul shot put Hatch up 51-48 with 1:21 to go.

Pope snagged a key rebound and Bobcat veteran coach Eugene Mason ordered his battle-tested troops to play keep away.

“Our kids knew they had to step it up when Billy fouled out,” said Mason.

Wilson added two more free throws and Sullivan knocked down two more after Pope took a charge on the Bears’ next possession.

Sullivan, Wilson and Lewis effectively ran out the last 28 seconds as the Bears chased futilely.

“We knew we had to step up and play harder without Billy.

We played tremendous defense,&uot; Sullivan said. &uot;We’re a very confident team.

We never think about losing.&uot;

Pope led the Bobcats with 12 points and 13 rebounds.

Sullivan, Lewis, and Collins scored 11 each.

Lewis turned in a superb defensive effort, making Jones earn every point he scored.

The Bobcats benefit from the area championship by hosting Hale County in a subregional contest Friday night in Uniontown.

The winner advances to the Southwest regional in Mobile next week.

The game is slated for 7 p.m.