Bulldogs down Fulton in overtime

Bulldogs down Fulton in overtime
Jordan Mitchell, going up against Fulton’s Courtland Simmons and A.J. Henderson, helped propel the Bulldogs to a rivalry game win. [Eric Mattson]
Dave Faries

The decisive moments in Mexico’s 70-63 roller coaster of an overtime win at Fulton on Monday night are obvious.

Down by 2 with under 30 seconds in regulation, Isaiah Reams darted from the top of the key to the rim for a game-tying layup that sent the contest into an extra period. Again down – this time by a single point – in overtime, Drew Blevins sank a three and Raef Yager followed with a baseline move for two more, putting the Bulldogs on top for good.

But there were crucial dramatic efforts up and down the court – a pair of steals by Daeye Miller that stopped two Fulton breaks, Yager fighting through a wall of bodies to pull down a rebound, the laser pass from Jordan Mitchell to Blevins, who followed through with that three-pointer.

If anything tipped the balance in the Bulldogs’ favor, it was the play of Mitchell.

“He made the right moves at the right time,” Mexico head coach Darren Pappas said of the senior guard. “He played a complete game.”

Mitchell hit the Bulldogs’ first two baskets to open the game. He repeatedly muscled up against larger Hornets forward to foil offensive rebounds. His board on the defensive end late in the third period ended in a coast to coast break to hold the home side temporarily at bay. And when Fulton closed to within 1 early in the fourth, Mitchell drove into the paint, flung himself toward the rim and then shifted gears mid-air, handing off to Miller to finish the score.

The veteran guard finished with 10 points.

“My role is to play defense, but if I get the chance to score I’ll take it,” Mitchell said.

At one point in the second quarter the Bulldogs led by 12. But Fulton rallied, pecking away at the gap throughout the third. Each time they closed, however, Mexico had an answer.

When Courtland Simmons put back his own miss to make it a 4 point game, Blevins responded with a short jumper. When Walker Gohring and Cameron Bennett hit free throws to bring the Hornets to within 5, Reams made a head fake, slipped free of his man and drained one from 10 feet.

Yet the Hornets kept creeping closer. They tied it up at 56-56 with 2:53 left in the game and pulled ahead 60-58 when Josh Reams sank two from the line with a scant 1:01 remaining.

Coach Pappas resorted to the weave, working the ball around the perimeter, letting the clock run. The tactic took time off the clock, but he hoped it would also open up options.

“We were trying to see if we could go downhill,” Pappas explained.

Fulton had a significant size advantage inside. But throughout the game Mexico managed to create lanes to drive.

Now, with just 28 seconds on the clock, Reams saw an opportunity.

“I knew they were pressuring the ball,” he said. “I was just trying to read their defense.”

Reams took the ball and peeled toward the key, finding a bit of fortune.

“I gave an inadvertent screen,” Yager pointed out with a laugh.

The bump gave Reams a clear path to the glass to tie the game and send it into OT.

Overtime started with momentum still in the Hornets’ favor. Josh Reams hit from three-point range. Mexico could only find two in answer – a pair from the line by Reams.

But Miller intercepted a Fulton pass and the ball ended up in Mitchell’s hand along the baseline. He fired it back to Blevins, who had just popped open outside the arc.

“The bigs” – at 6’3 Blevins is one of the taller Bulldogs – “we have chemistry,” Mitchell said. “I know where they are going to be.”

The three-point shot put Mexico on top 65-63 with less than three minutes to go in OT.

“They started making a run, but we kept our composure,” Blevins observed.

Moments later Miller found Yager, who belted into the paint looking for contact.

“I thought it was going to be a foul,” he explained. “I put it up and it went in.”

And the Bulldogs held a 67-63 advantage, one they would not relinquish. Fulton failed to score in the waning minutes. Meanwhile, fouls of necessity send Miller and Yager to the line repeatedly.

If there was a flaw in Mexico’s effort, it was free throw accuracy. In the overtime period, the Bulldogs converted just 5 of 12 shots from the stripe.

Coach Pappas singled that out as a point for improvement. But he echoed Blevins on the team’s poise in a back and forth battle.

“I thought that we held our composure as much as possible,” he said. It was a physical game, with quite a bit of chatter. Fulton drew two technical fouls. “Anytime you play in a rivalry game, emotions are high,” the coach added.

Reams topped the scoring list with 21. Blevins had 11 to go with 10 from Mitchell. Miller and Yager put in 9 each, while Michael White added 7. Peyton Miller hit from three.


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