Hitchcock tops Lorena in defensive, methodical regional semifinal

Published: Mar. 4, 2023 at 12:21 AM CST
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WACO, Texas (Galveston County Daily News) - Don’t be fooled by their names — Friday night’s Region III-3A basketball semifinal between the Hitchcock Runnin’ ‘Dogs and the Lorena Leopards was far from a track meet.

For the second consecutive playoff game, No. 2 state-ranked Hitchcock showed poise against a team that effectively neutralized the Bulldogs’ preferred fast-paced style, outlasting No. 3 Lorena for a 43-31 win at Midway High School to advance to the regional championship game.

“At this point on, a lot of games are going to be like this because teams aren’t going to want to get up and down; they’re going to want to go for possession,” said Hitchcock head boys basketball Chris Jordan, whose Bulldogs face New Waverly — 57-51 winners over Palmer in Friday’s other semifinal match — at 1 p.m. Saturday back at Midway.

“That’s part of growing up and being a mature group; you’ve got to learn how to win like that,” Jordan added.

The first half of the Hitchcock-Lorena showdown more closely resembled a heavyweight prize fight, with each side feeling out the other and not getting off much offense.

Going into halftime, the score was knotted at just 9-9. Damien McDaniel scored eight of the Bulldogs’ nine first-half points to keep his team in game.

With the Leopards ahead 14-13 at the 6:18 mark of the third quarter, Hitchcock reeled off eight unanswered points — sparked by a 3-pointer from Elijah Sherwood, a blocked shot turned rare fast-break lay-in from McDaniel, and an offensive board and and-1 put-back in the paint from Lloyd Jones III — to piece together a solid 21-14 advantage.

“We just had to knock some shots down,” Jordan said. “I knew our defense was going to play well, and that’s the best defense we’ve seen all year. They play really good defense, really good help-side defense.”

The Bulldogs maintained the seven-point edge with a 25-18 lead at the end of the third quarter, and in a game where a mere seven-point deficit seemed like an insurmountable mountain to climb, it was just that, as Lorena could only get Hitchcock’s lead down to five points in the fourth quarter.

Up 35-29 inside the final three minutes left to play, the Bulldogs made 6 of 10 free throw tries, got a dagger drive to the bucket from McDaniel and only gave up a lay-in from Lorena’s Collin Hill to close the game out on an 8-2 run.

McDaniel led the Bulldogs with 17 points and pulled down nine rebounds. Sherwood chipped in 10 points, while Jones added seven points, 11 rebounds and two blocks. Rounding out Hitchcock’s scoring was Bryce Dorsey with five points, and Isaac Garza with four points.

The Leopards were led by Camden Brock with 17 points, while Hill tallied seven points.