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Warhawks fall short against ACCC leader

By By BRUCE HIXON Sports Editor
Under normal circumstances, moral victories usually do not mean a whole lot.
Despite Thursday's 69-64 home court loss to the Lawson State Cougars, the Jefferson Davis Community College Warhawks served notice they could be more than just a spoiler when the Alabama Community College Conference Tournament gets underway later this month.
"I feel like we're getting better every game. We've got players such as John Madison and Brandon Montgomery who have really come on in recent games. We could be a tough team to beat come tournament time, especially once we start getting some people back," JDCC coach Allen Gainer said.
Unfortunately for the Warhawks (3-8 in the ACCC and 8-16 overall), one player who may not be back is leading scorer Greg Dickinson. Dickinson returned to the court Thursday for the first time since he injured his knee against Southern Union back on January 29.
Dickinson's return turned out to be a short one. With just under six minutes left in the first half, Dickinson reinjured his knee and did not return.
"Hindsight being what it is, we definitely brought Greg back too soon. (The knee) it's not good. I'm afraid this may knock him out the rest of the season," Gainer said.
Despite the loss of Dickinson, which reduced the JDCC bench to just six available players, the Warhawks were able to take ACCC co-leader Lawson State (10-1 in the ACCC and 20-6 overall) down to the wire.
The Cougars had a six-point lead on three occasions in the first nine minutes of the game before JDCC recorded one of its better stretches of play this season.
Over the next five minutes the Warhawks used a 14-3 surge to take a 25-20 lead. Montgomery, who had 14 of his 21 points in the first half, had a pair of field goals during that run, while Madison contributed a a pair of steals, a layup and two free throws. Jeff Foster also had a key steal that led to a layup.
JDCC had a 25-24 lead at the time of Dickinson's injury prior to a 9-2 run by the Cougars that put Lawson State up 33-29. However, field goals by Kenny Thompson and Madison brought JDCC even at 33-33 headed into half-time.
Two key areas were probably the decisive factor in the second half. In the first 11 minutes, JDCC had 11 turnovers.
"We had 23 turnovers for the game, which is a lot. Considering how great Lawson State's pressure is, that figure actually isn't that bad," Gainer said.
The other area was the Cougars' ability to get offensive rebounds at key times.
"I think we got fatigued. We didn't block out on the boards at some key times and we lost number 34 (Wayne Bender) three times on defense and each time he hit a three-pointer," Gainer said.
Once Lawson State's Paul Shields scored at the start of the second half to put the Cougars back on top, the visitors never relinquished the lead.
With Lawson State up just 43-42, the Cougars hit three three-pointers, one each by Bender, Danelle Smith and Ricky Gibson, in a four-minute stretch that extended the Cougars' lead to a game high margin of 56-46.
Lawson State still had a 64-56 advantage with just over three minutes left when the Warhawks made their last charge.
Madison hit a free throw, while Thompson scored off an offensive rebound that cut the lead to 64-59. A steal by Thompson led to a fastbreak bucket by Foster that trimmed the Cougars' cushion to just 64-61 with 1:20 left.
Bender hit a key three-pointer with 1:07 left that doubled Lawson State's edge to six points, but a trey by JDCC's Randall Burno with 47 seconds left made it a one-possession lead again of 67-64.
The Cougars gave JDCC a couple of opportunities in the waning moments when it missed the front end of two one-and-ones. Both times the Warhawks failed to take advantage. Burno missed a game-tying three-point shot with 13 seconds to go and Bender came up with a huge offensive rebound after the other missed free throw with seven seconds left.
Bender was immediately fouled and for all intent sealed the win when he hit two charity tosses to make it a two-possession lead of 69-64.
The Warhawks travel to Enterprise Monday for a 7 p.m. ACCC game.
At JDCC
Lawson State 33 36 – 69
JDCC 33 31 – 64
LAWSON STATE (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) Bender 1-3-6-17; Gibson 4-3-0-17; Murphy 3-2-0-12; Shields 3-1-1-10; Smith 1-1-2-7; Pratt 2-0-0-4; Robinson 1-0-0-2 (Totals: 15-10-9-69)
JDCC (2FG-3FG-FT-TP) Montgomery 9-0-3-21; Thompson 6-0-0-12; Madison 2-1-3-10; Burno 1-2-0-8; Foster 3-0-3-9; Owens 1-0-0-2; Dickinson 1-0-0-2 (Totals: 23-3-9-64)