By JOSH FRYE
News Sports Writer
Despite the loss to R.C. Hatch in the AHSAA Regional Finals on February 15, J.U. Blacksher’s Bulldogs exceeded all expectations and made school history in what many feel was one of the team’s most thrilling basketball seasons ever.
The Bulldogs had earned their way into the Regional Finals with a thrilling three-point win (49-46) over Choctaw High School on February 12.
In that game JUB stood strong defensively during the first period but the Tigers held up just as well, and the score was 9-9 after one period.
The story was much the same during the second period, as Choctaw and JUB thrilled the standing-room-only home crowd with a bit of back and forth basketball.
Blacksher’s Gavin Banks scored 6 points during the second period, with four of those coming from the free throw line. The Bulldogs were able to hang on and break the tie before the half, taking a 25-24 lead.
The crowd welcomed the teams back for the second half with a standing ovation.
As the teams took the court, each had its eye on the scoreboard.
The Bulldogs and Tigers remained deadlocked for most of the game, a trend that continued into the third period.
K.D. Rabb scored three for the Bulldogs during the third quarter, but that was not enough to pull ahead of the Tigers, who held a one-point lead, 37-36, over the Bulldogs.
The nail-biting continued into the final quarter.
Choctaw started out strong, but calls started to go Blacksher’s way. J.T. Tucker was able to capitalize on the foul calls and aid Rabb’s effort. The Rabb-Tucker team was the dominate force during the fourth period, with Tucker sealing the win on a pair of final-second free-throws.
The JUB crowd rushed the court to congratulate the team on the win and on the team’s advance into the Regional Finals.
That would turn out to be the season’s final victory, though, as Blacksher’s exciting young team made its way to Montgomery to face Hatch.
Blacksher came out strong against the Bobcats but trailed 11-9 at the end of the first period. The Bulldogs, playing strong defense and offense, were unable to overtake the Hatch squad, which outshot the JUB 24-15 during the second period to build a 35-24 halftime lead.
During the break, JUB regained its composure. The Bulldogs outscored R.C. Hatch 19-14 during the third period and narrowed their deficit to 49-43.
The JUB boys, who established over the last half of the season a trend of rallying during the last two periods of games, appeared to be on their way to putting together another second-half rally.
But, despite matching the Bobcats shot-for-shot during the fourth period, the Bulldogs ended their season on the short end of a 64-58 score.
Rabb scored 24 points and pulled down 8 rebounds to lead JUB, while Javeyon Tucker had 11 boards and scored 15 points. Gavin Banks chipped in with 7 points and 8 rebounds, Ja’Daniel Nettles had 6 rebounds and 8 points, and Lane Sims added 4 points and a rebound.
The entire Bulldogs team will return next year.