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WEATHERING THE STORM: Bulldogs overcome foul trouble, slow start in semifinal win over Hanceville

The Pike County Bulldogs are heading to their first ever state championship game after they knocked off Hanceville 52-42 on Tuesday morning at Legacy Arena in Birmingham.

The Bulldogs got just two minutes out of senior Andres Burney in the first half. With Burney on the bench, the Bulldogs overcame an early 8-2 deficit in the game’s first quarter.

The Bulldogs advance to take on the winner of Lauderdale County and Hale County in Friday afternoon’s state championship.

“I want to thank God for giving me the opportunity to coach these kids of Pike County,” head coach Doug Holland said.

Burney picked up two quick fouls in the game’s first two minutes, forcing Holland to send his senior to the bench. Burney sat out the final 14 minutes of the first half.

Burney returned for the second half and totaled 16 minutes in the game, finishing with 12 points and 19 rebounds. All 12 points came in the second half.

“I told him to just calm down,” Holland said. “He has played like that for us since he has been here. I didn’t expect any different from him today. I knew he was going to play fast and come back in the second half.”

With Burney on the bench, the Bulldogs fell behind 8-2. They didn’t score their first points until Omar Cumberbatch scored with just 2:15 remaining in the first quarter.

Trailing 10-2, the Bulldogs closed the first quarter on a 5-2 run and went into the second trailing 12-7.

“I figured in this venue some of them were going to play a little timid,” Holland said. “It’s all part of process. If I had trouble sleeping, I can’t imagine how it was for these players, being here for the first time.”

Cumberbatch, along with Amaghie Lampley and Ze’Quan Boyd weathered the storm in Burney’s absence in the second quarter. The Bulldogs never trailed by more than seven points in the quarter and went into the half trailing by six at 24-18.

“We are not scared of trusting the bench and the younger players,” Holland said. “A lot of those players out there just moved up from the B-team. You are talking about eighth, ninth and 10th graders. I feel confident in however it goes.”

The Bulldogs scored the first 12 points of the second half and earned their first lead of the game. Burney returned to the game to start the second half. The senior scored nine points in the quarter and the Bulldogs took a 34-32 lead into the fourth quarter.

“I was ready,” Burney said. “I just had to stop being so aggressive. I believed in my teammates and I was there to cheer them on.”

Burney began the fourth quarter like he did in the first quarter. Burney picked up two quick fouls, again in the first two minutes of the quarter. Holland again was forced to put Burney on the bench with the game tied at 36 with 6:21 remaining.

The Bulldogs went on a 9-4 run to pull ahead 45-38. Burney scored four-straight points after returning to the floor to stretch Pike County’s lead to 12. The Bulldogs outscored Hanceville 18-10 in the final quarter to secure the win.

Cumberbatch led the way for the Bulldogs, scoring 13 points to go along with nine rebounds. Lampley finished with eight points and Boyd finished with seven.

Tip-off for the Class 3A State Championship is set for 2:15 p.m.