Known as a football and wrestling mecca, the town of Dove Creek has rarely experienced success on the hardwood.
Providing a sign of change however, the Bulldogs’ boys basketball team marched into Dolores on Dec. 17 and played toe to toe with the Dolores Bears before sustaining a heartbreaking 47-42 loss.
Early in the contest, things looked golden for the Bulldogs, who, courtesy of two early layups by sophomore Spencer Gatlin and a three pointer by sophomore Kyle Schultz, built a 9-1 lead.
Although the Bears battled back to take a 16-15 lead midway through the second quarter after a layup by Jalen Balderrama, the Bulldogs finished the half strong, getting four key points from sophomore Beau Hemphill to pull ahead of Dolores 25-19 entering the half.
“My guys were being really aggressive,” said Bulldogs head coach Curtis Garver.
Clearly fired up to begin the second half, the Bulldogs were perhaps a bit too aggressive as several players, including Gatlin, got into foul trouble.
With Dove Creek’s big man doing his best to avoid fouls, the Bears took advantage, pulling to within one point at 29-28 before a pretty post-move Gatlin put the Bulldogs ahead 31-28.
Refusing to give an inch however, Dolores continued chipping away and by the end of the third quarter, the Bears had a 36-35 lead.
With the game hanging in the balance throughout the fourth quarter, the teams traded buckets, demonstrating a desire that arises after years of intense rivalry.
After a layup by sophomore Jordan Ernst gave the Bulldogs a 41-37 with roughly two minutes to go, it appeared as if Dove Creek would depart Dolores victorious.
Bears’ sophomore Jackson Vermeule had other ideas however, and after the junior buried an open three to tie the game at 42-42 with 49 seconds left, a turnover by the Bulldogs opened the door for Dolores.
Coming out of a timeout, the Bears put the ball in the hands of their sharpshooting sophomore and again, Vermeule delivered, nailing an open three from the right corner to put Dolores ahead 45-42 with 18 seconds to go.
After failing to convert an Ernst three on their subsequent possession, the Bulldogs were forced to foul and after two free throws by Vermeule, the clock expired, giving the Bears a 47-42 victory.
“We stuck with our zone the whole game,” said Garver, discussing the game’s final minute. They hadn’t hit any outside shots. It finally caught up with us.”
Leading the Bulldogs in scoring during the loss was Ernst, who recorded 16 points. Gatlin chipped in 15.
Now 1-5, the Bulldogs will break for Christmas vacation before returning to action on Jan. 9 against Monticello.
“We’re working on our ball-handling skills,” said Garver of his team’s plans for the break. “We’re trying to find that second and third guy to go to.”