There was no doubt that Hampton left it all on the court inside the Murphy Center in Friday’s Class A Semifinals.
The Bulldogs battled and went toe-to-toe with East Robertson, but came up short in a 58-56 overtime decision.
Hampton sees their incredible run come up a game short of the Championship game, and they finish the season with a 27-9 mark.
“My hat’s off to my kids,” Hampton Head Coach Ned Smith said. “I thought they played their hearts out. The team we were playing was stronger, longer, and quicker. I thought our kids just battled.”
“They battled every play, every shot. It was everything we had to put in it. I’ve never been so proud of a bunch of kids. They played with heart tonight.”
Morgan Lyons had 19 points to lead the Hampton effort, while Cadon Buckles had 14 points. Michael Harrison and Dalton Holtsclaw had six points apiece.
A day after holding on for a quarterfinal win against West Carroll, it was Hampton’s turn to rally.
The Bulldogs trailed by nine at one point before retaking a lead late in the third quarter.
“Down nine, the kids just kept battling and kept working for a shot and taking care of the basketball,” Smith said. “We full-court pressured them, and I thought our kids gave it everything they had.”
Hampton held a 3-point lead until East Robertson hit a 3-pointer with 23 seconds left to force overtime.
From the start, Hampton wasn’t going to back down from the challenge.
Lyons and Buckles hit early shots as the Bulldogs and Indians traded shots.
The Bulldogs pulled out to a 16-10 lead with a 3-pointer from Dalton Holtsclaw.
Hampton held a 16-12 lead after a quarter of play.
The Indians started the second quarter with a 9-0 run before Michael Harrison knocked down a trey for the blue and white.
Another Harrison 3-pointer and buckets from Lyons and Buckles pulled Hampton back within one point with just under a minute left in the half, but East Robertson pushed the lead to 33-27 at the half.
After the teams traded shots to open the third quarter, Isaiah McCoury hit a 3-pointer to pull HHS within 37-35 with 4:52 left in the quarter.
The Bulldogs continued to battle back as Lyons regained the lead with 1:52 left, and East Robertson used a late shot to take a 45-43 lead into the final quarter.
The Indians pushed the lead to five points with points from Taylor Groves. Hayden Cambell hit a jumper with 5:07 to get Hampton on the board, and Lyons drained a pair of free throws with 3:57 left to pull the Bulldogs back within one.
After a Harrison steal, Whitehead scored on a lay-up and regained a 49-48 advantage with 55 seconds remaining. Campbell added a layup to push the Hampton lead to three points with 33 seconds remaining.
Groves, however, knocked down a 3-pointer with 23 seconds left that proved to be the shot to force overtime.
The Groves bucket broke a seven-minute scoring drought for the Indians.
East Robertson got on the board first in the extra period with a Groves bucket, but Buckles countered for Hampton.
Groves scored with a lay-up with 48 seconds. From there, Hampton was unable to get any more gas in the tank and answer the Indian run.
“Defensively, they pumped up the pressure there, and we had some injuries and we were just not as deep as we normally are,” Smith said. “We couldn’t sub as much. We just ran out of depth.”
Holtsclaw hit a 3-pointer from beyond the half-court line at the buzzer to account for the final score as the Bulldogs battled to the last second.
“I am proud of my boys,” Smith said.
Groves led East Robertson with 27 points.