W.S. Neal comeback falls short against Clarke Cty.
By By SCOTT COOPER – Sports Writer
The W.S. Neal Blue Eagles and Clarke County Bulldogs staged a fierce battle for three quarters in a Jan. 10 Area-1 matchup at W.S. Neal High School before the Bulldogs pulled away in the final period.
Leading 37-32 at the end of the third quarter, the Bulldogs scored the first eight points of the final stanza to build a 13-point lead they maintained to the end in a 59-46 win that dropped Neal to 5-13 overall and 0-2 against area competition.
The game began as a tough defensive struggle and with both teams attempting to get into a smooth offensive flow.
After no score over the first two minutes of the game, Nick Benjamin dialed-in from long range to give the Blue Eagles a 3-0 lead. Clarke County tied the game at 4-4 with just under three minutes to go in the quarter, but then Benjamin's layup with 2:40 left put Neal out front, 6-4. After a 5-0 Clarke County run gave the Bulldogs an 11-6 advantage, Neal's Marcus Floyd scored a basket that closed the gap to three, 11-8.
The seesaw battle continued in the second quarter, as the teams swapped baskets while holding their positions.
Two consecutive short jumpers from J.J. Pitts kept the Blue Eagles close at 17-13 with just under 4:00 left before halftime. Then, a Pitts' 3-pointer with 2:55 remaining allowed Neal to remain within four points, 20-16. After a couple of Benjamin free throws made the score 22-18, a Bulldogs' 3-pointer just before the half gave the visitors a 25-18 advantage at intermission.
The Blue Eagles took advantage of clutch 3-point shots to pull closer in the third quarter. Two 3-pointers by Pitts coupled with another by Benjamin contributed to Neal outscoring the Bulldogs in the period, 14-12. Entering the final quarter, the Blue Eagles trailed 37-32.
Taking advantage of their rebounding advantage, Clarke County ran the floor in transition for eight straight points in building a 47-32 final-quarter lead. Although Neal fought to get back in the game, the end result was a 13-point Bulldogs' victory.
Offensive leaders for W.S. Neal were Nick Benjamin, 17 points; J.J. Pitts, 15 points and Marcus Folmar, 10 points.