Mark Dragoo had to look around more than once during the first half of the Class A sectional basketball game Monday night. The schedule said Dragoo and his Arts & Sciences Patriots were playing at home, but the veteran coach, after watching the first few minutes against feisty Friendship Christian, wasn't so sure.
After a sloppy, cold-shooting first half, though, CSAS put its total game together and rolled to a 66-45 win, earning a spot in the quarterfinals in Murfreesboro next week.
"You would have thought we were playing on the road the way we were playing," Dragoo said of his team's narrow 20-17 halftime lead. "The downside to playing at home, I think, is that the atmosphere sometimes gets the kids carried away a bit, so you have to pull them back some.
"We didn't rebound well, defend well or shoot well in the first half, but still we were ahead. I told them if we took care of those things in the second half we would win, and they did."
The Patriots (28-4), jacked up by a standing-room-only crowd that included several hundred Friendship fans, shot wild 3-pointers on their first four possessions. They didn't shoot another one in the first half, instead focusing on using Alex Stallion's superior playmaking and strong finishes by Sharif Cobb and Brandon Woodruff to lead by 10 midway through the second period.
However, the Commanders made a 8-1 run to close within three, ending a half in which neither team made a basket outside five feet.
ARTS & SCIENCES 66, FRIENDSHIP CHRISTIAN 45
Friendship 5 12 9 19 - 45
CSAS 13 7 18 28 - 66
Friendship Christian (45) - Hill 5, Patterson 8, Sandoval 2, Hutchinson 4, Defevers 2, Neal 1, Heaston 7, Reeves, Johnson 4, Hunter Anderson 10, Smith 2, Lancaster.
Arts & Sciences (66) - Brandon Woodruff 13, Alex Stallion 15, Malki Dodds 17, Sharif Cobb 12, Ball 4, Austin, Lenoir 5.
3-point goals: Friendship 2 (Hill, Anderson); CSAS 3 (Dodds 3). Other highlights: Cobb 7 s; Stallion 6 s; Justin Lenoir 7 r (CSAS). Records: Arts & Sciences 28-4; Friendship 23-6.
That all changed in the third when CSAS's Malik Dodds caught fire. A Stallion steal and feed to Dodds led to a layup and a 23-17 lead early in the third quarter, and then Dodds made the game's first 3-point basket seconds later. He followed with two more bombs to start and cap a 13-3 run to end the third period with the Patriots in control 38-26.
"Coach told us to work the ball around more because the more we moved the defense around, the better the shots we were going to get," said Dodds, who led the winners with 17 points, all but three coming after halftime. "I made one and I started feeling it."
The Commanders (23-6) never were able to get the lead under 10 as the Patriots' running game kicked into high gear. With Stallion driving and dishing at will, CSAS scored 28 points in the final period to pull away.
Stallion added 15 points, six steals and at least 10 assists, while Cobb had 12 points and seven thefts to go with 13 points from Woodruff for the Patriots. Hunter Anderson, with 10 points, was the only Commander in double figures.
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