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Bulldogs go cold in second half, fall by three to Lauderdale County

TUSCUMBIA - A poor second half doomed Belgreen to a 61-58 loss to Class 3A Lauderdale County in Tuesday’s first round of the Bracy Invitational at Deshler High School.

The Bulldogs (9-4) shot 53 percent from the field in the first half and opened up a six-point lead at 41-35 after sophomore guard Brant Bragwell opened the third quarter with a three-pointer. Belgreen would go cold thereafter, missing 18 of its final 23 shots and managing just 17 points over the game’s final 15-plus minutes.

“We just were not executing,” said head coach Clint Isbell, whose team will face Shoals Christian in the consolation bracket on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. “We got out-played and out-worked. Our energy and intensity weren’t very good, and we didn’t execute well. We got out of control at times in the second half, and we forced some things. It seemed like we were trying to do too much on our own.”

The Bulldogs stretched the lead to 42-35 on a free throw by Joseph Welch with 6:39 left in the third, but they finished the quarter just 3-for-8 from the line and 3-for-15 from the floor. Lauderdale County trimmed the lead to 44-41 on a layup by Trenton Sharp at the 4:00 mark and then pulled even a minute later on a three by Wyatt Newton.

Bragwell found senior Grayson Moore for a layup to put Belgreen back in front, but Reece Thacker answered with a three-point play to give the Tigers a 47-46 lead.

Thacker, a 6’2 junior, gave the Bulldogs fits in the paint all night, finishing with a game-high 20 points. As a team, Lauderdale County shot 50 percent from the field, including 10-for-17 in the second half.

“We had talked about fronting the post,” Isbell said, “but we didn’t do a very good job of that. That was our plan, but for some reason we didn’t get it done. I didn’t think our press was very good tonight either. We had to get out of it, because we weren’t rotating right.

“Energy and intensity are critical to the way we play, and for whatever reason they just weren’t there tonight. Maybe it was because we hadn’t played a game in a week. Maybe we expected to just go out there and win. But like I told our guys, you never win just because you expect to—you have to go out there and make it happen.”

Belgreen regained the lead at 48-47 when Moore grabbed a rebound and then found Hiser with a long outlet pass for a layup, but Thacker answered with a basket at the buzzer to put the Tigers on top 49-48 at the end of three.

Mason Bragwell, a 6’5 sophomore, opened the fourth quarter with a pair of free throws to put the Bulldogs back in front by one. The lead seesawed back and forth until Sharp canned his third three-pointer of the night at the 4:25 mark to put Lauderdale County on top 56-54. Senior Peyton Gross followed with another three to stretch the lead to five with 3:30 remaining.

Junior guard Jacob Mayberry went 2-for-2 at the line to get Belgreen back within three at 59-56, and Brant Bragwell’s pull-up 16-footer cut the lead to one with 41.2 seconds remaining. Newton missed the front end of a one-and-one with 30 seconds left, but the Bulldogs failed to capitalize when Bragwell’s three from the top of the key rimmed off with 17 seconds to go.

Newton made two free throws with 15.5 seconds on the clock to make it 61-58, and then Belgreen turned the ball over on its next trip. The Bulldogs had one final chance to force overtime after Sharp missed the front end of a one-and-one with 6.6 seconds remaining, but Mayberry’s deep three came up short as time expired.

Mason Bragwell finished with 17 points and six rebounds to lead Belgreen. He came out hot, scoring 15 first-half points on 7-for-9 shooting, but was held without a field goal in the second half. Brant Bragwell finished with 11 points and four boards, and Mayberry added nine points and two steals. Senior guard Logan Seay chipped in with five points off the bench, and Moore had four. Welch and Green scored three apiece, and Hiser, Seth Taylor and Payton Scott each added two.

Sharp scored 19 points for Lauderdale County, which overcame 18 turnovers. Newton added 12 points, hitting two of the Tigers’ six threes on the night.

Belgreen lost for the third time in its last five games after starting the season 7-1.

“As a coach, I have to take responsibility for the way we played tonight,” Isbell said. “There were some decisions I made that could have been better. We just have to step up and come together and get back to playing our style of basketball.”

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