Earle edges closer to unbeaten conference record
By Chuck Livingston Sports Editor
To veteran Earle head coach Billy Murray, his aggressive version of the full-court press is like an old friend. Just because you don’t see it as much anymore doesn’t mean that he doesn’t still love it. It also doesn’t mean that it’s not still totally effective. So last night, as his Bulldogs were locked in a tight game with league rival Riverside, Murray called up his old buddy in time to help him clinch a 73-59 win against the Rebels. “We haven’t really been pressing at all this year,” explained Murray. “Most of the time we go with a man-to-man, but in case we need to press during the district and regional tournaments, I wanted to test it out tonight.” Murray’s gamble paid off as Riverside hung around during most of a chilly night in Earle, but once the Bulldogs wore down the Rebels and their short bench, it was curtains. Helping keep Riverside afloat was guard Gavin Stone, who would hit for a game-high 25 points. However, 19 of those came in the first half and his last basket of the night came with 7:33 left in regulation and got the Rebels within three points at 52-49. From there, Earle (19-1 overall, 13-0 2A-3) guard Marcus Brown shadowed the sharp-shooter to slow him down and the Bulldog press forced five turnovers down the stretch to pull away. “My defense has gotta step it up,” said Murray simply. “We did a good job on the boards (43-24), but they came in here ready to upset us. That’s a scrappy bunch that Coach (Buster) Campbell had ready to upset us tonight.” Following Stone’s last field goal, Earle took off on a 13-4 run to post its largest lead of the night to date at 65-53 following a three-pointer from Travis Rogers. Earle didn’t look like it would need late heroics in the earlygoing. The Bulldogs flashed their full-court pressure in the first quarter, coming up with three turnovers that led immediately to baskets and an 8-0 lead. However, Riverside would dig back in to trail just 16-15 after the first quarter as Stone popped for 10 points in the first quarter. A nip-and-tuck battle took center stage from there as Riverside would lead by as many as three points in the second stanza, but a late 6-0 Earle run got them to halftime with a 35-32 lead. The third quarter was more of the same as neither team could lead by more than three points either way and Earle coasted to the fourth quarter ahead 50-47. The difference down the stretch may have been the lift that Murray got from his bench as opposed to what Campbell’s crew did not get from theirs. Murray subbed liberally throughout the game while Campbell played seven players and used his timeouts to rest his team in the second half. “Our bench, I thought, did a good job,” said Murray. “That’s the luxury of being at Earle that I can call on anybody from my bench and they’ll do a good job. Offense, defense, rebounding, my guards are quick. It’s almost too good to be true.” In fact, Brown scored nine of Earle’s final 15 points, and he came off the bench for the Bulldogs against the Rebels. Sophomore big man Gerry Bohanon scored 22 points to lead Earle, while the Bulldogs got 16 points apiece from the Brown twins, Marcus and Marquise and B.J. Murray added 12 on the night. Riverside got Stone’s 25, and 12 apiece from Luke Baker and Chris Sain. Earle is at home on Friday night when they host Cross County in another league game. The Bulldogs will finish their conference schedule at East Poinsett County on Tuesday night.