PREP BASKETBALL: Campbell’s last-second free throws push Hanceville past Locust Fork in OT and back to Northeast Regional

The Bulldogs celebrate after Zach Campbell’s last-second free throws edged Locust Fork 58-57 in OT. (Martha Needham for The Cullman Tribune)

HANCEVILLE, Ala. – Hanceville is heading back to Jacksonville State for the Northeast Regional after taking down Locust Fork in a thrilling, sub-regional showdown that couldn’t be decided in four quarters. Bulldogs guard Tyson Bellmon drilled a three-pointer from the left wing at the buzzer to tie the game at 43 at the end of regulation and send us to overtime. After both teams continued to battle it out in the extra period, freshman guard Zach Campbell was fouled with 0.1 seconds remaining on the clock and buried two free throws to give Hanceville a dramatic, 58-57 win over the Hornets.

It was a stressful night for Bulldogs Head Coach Stephen Chandler but after Campbell buried those two free throws and secured the win, he was proud of the way his guys fought through a sloppy game to get it done.

“They bought in, believed and never quit believing. We’ve been up and down and played some close games all year and I think that helped us,” Chandler said. “It was just a gutsy performance by some of our guys and guys were stepping up at the right time to hit shots and that’s big.”

Chandler touched on the poise of his standout freshman on the floor and what was running through his mind when Campbell went to the line with a chance to win the game.

“He’s a freshman but he’s kind of got a clutch aura about him and that’s what was going through my head,” Chandler smiled. “I told him it was time to prove it right now and he stepped up and did it.”

When Campbell went to the line down one with less than a second to play, he was confident in his shot and the work he’s put in up to this point but he had faith in his teammates to make the play as well.

“I just put trust in my shot. We shoot every day and our coaches and teammates all believe in each other, so I knew even if I would’ve missed it, my teammates would’ve gotten it and put it back in,” Campbell said. “We all have faith in each other, and it could have been any one of us at the line, any one of us and we would’ve put it in.”

The Bulldogs struggled for most of the night offensively and had trouble at the charity stripe as well so Campbell credits the fight and the will in his team for lifting them over Locust Fork and sending them back to Regionals.

“It’s the will. It’s the will that our coaches use to push us, and we push each other. We love situations like that,” Campbell said. “We love being in tight games and we want to be challenged. Our coaches always tell us to work hard and that every shot we take at practice is important”

Hanceville fell behind the Hornets 5-2 early in the opening quarter before back to back buckets by Campbell trimmed the lead to 7-6 with less than two minutes to play in the period. Cainon Moore added a pair of free throws with a minute remaining in the first and the Bulldogs trailed 10-8 after one.

Locust Fork pulled ahead 13-10 early in the second but a three-pointer from Bellmon held the lead to 17-14 with two minutes to play in the first half. Moore laid one in to make it a 20-16 game in the final seconds of the second quarter and the Hornets led by four going into the locker room at the break.

Another Moore bucket cut the lead to two at the start of the third quarter and a Campbell layup tied things at 20. Izayah Glenon scored inside to give Hanceville a 2-point lead, but the Hornets scored six straight to move back in front. Baskets by Glenon and Campbell tied the game at 26 with 34 seconds remaining in the period and both teams went into the final frame all tied up.

Campbell was fouled on a jumper and converted the and-one play at the line to make it 29-26 at the start of the fourth and a pair of free throws from Raiden Morgan kept the Bulldogs in front 31-28. Locust Fork was able to retake a 34-33 lead with three minutes to play but a free throw from Brodie Malcom tied the game at 36 with less than two minutes remaining. A huge and-one play by Morgan gave Hanceville a 39-36 lead with a minute on the clock but the Hornets were able to score inside again and add a pair of free throws to take a 43-40 lead with eight seconds to play in regulation. The Bulldogs quickly got the ball up the floor and Campbell found Bellmon on the left wing for a three at the buzzer and Bellmon hit nothing but nylon to send the game into overtime.

Locust Fork six straight to take a big lead at the start of the overtime period but as it had all night, Hanceville battled back. Moore scored inside to cut the lead to four and a bucket from Mathew Cornelius held the lead to five with two minutes remaining. A pair of Campbell free throws made it a 3-point game and Campbell followed those with another basket that cut it to 52-51. The Hornets answered again to go back up by three with 50 seconds on the clock but Glenon responded with a basket on the other to end to make it a 54-53 game. Locust Fork netted two free throws to stretch the lead to three 18 seconds to play but Bellmon was fouled on a three-point shot with 10 seconds and he buried all three of them to tie the game at 56. The Hornets were fouled and hit one of two from the line with seven seconds left to go up by one but after Campbell was fouled on the other end with 0.1 seconds hanging on the clock, the freshman drilled two shots from the charity stripe to win it and send the Bulldogs back to the Northeast Regional at Jacksonville State.

Campbell led the way for Hanceville with 17 in the win, followed by Moore with 12, Bellmon with 10, Morgan with seven and Glenon with six.

The Bulldogs will be on the floor at Jacksonville State Saturday night at 7:30 to take on Piedmont.

Other Tuesday Sub-Regional scores:

Muscle Shoals 67 – Cullman 46 (varsity boys)

The season came to an end in the sub-regional round for the Bearcats Tuesday night after falling on the road to Muscle Shoals, bringing their final record on the season to 16-14.

Winfield 65 – Vinemont 52 (varsity boys)

The Eagles dropped their sub-reginal matchup at Winfield Tuesday night, ending their postseason run and the season at 11-17.

Good Hope 84 – D.A.R. 76 (varsity boys)

The Raiders overcame a slow start to knock off D.A.R. on the road in the sub-regional round and will now advance to the Northeast Regional at Jacksonville State. Good Hope will face Anniston Monday morning at 10:30.

Pickens County 103 – Meek 47 (varsity boys)

The Tigers’ season came to an end with their sub-regional loss at Pickens County Tuesday night, bringing their final season record to 5-24

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