Last season the Hampton Bulldogs got to Murfreesboro by way of a home victory over Harriman. This season, thanks to a one-point loss to Cloudland in the Region 1-A finals the ‘Dogs will take to the road to try to end up where they left off in 2011.
The ‘Dogs beat Harriman 86-64 at Van Huss / White gym and earned a 61-47 victory over Summertown in round one of the TSSAA state tournament.
Led by graduated players like post Dylan Hill, guards Nathaniel Hughes, Dylan Ward and Jacob Jones the ‘Dogs got to within a game of playing for the state title, but a 63-52 loss to Lake County ended the run for Hampton.
This season Hampton (21-15) fell to the Highlanders 47-46 in the regional final at Chuckey- Doak Middle School, which will force the ‘Dogs to the Knoxville area to take on Wartburg Central (24-4) in a battle of Bulldogs and Wartburg’s all-state hopeful Alex Fountain.
“He will be a focus of our attention defensively,” said Bulldogs head coach Ned Smith. “He’s a good scorer and rebounder and we will have to keep him under control. They like to press defensively and they shoot the ball well as a team. It’s a big challenge for us, especially on the road.”
Fountain, a junior forward, led Central in scoring with a 23 point per-game average and was named the team MVP for 2011-12 and is a candidate for the all-state squad.
“He’s our go to guy,” said Central’s head coach Joe Layne. “He shoots from the outside well, but he’s strong enough to get points on the blocks as well. Hampton has a great tradition in basketball. They have been there before so they have an advantage on us since this is our first time at this level.
“The win over Oneida was so big for our program and gave us our first sub-state game. At home, our fans have really given us a lift throughout the regional tournament and I hope it continues on Monday night.”
Along with the 6’7” Fountain, Hampton will have to contend with 6’4” post Brad Richardson, and a three-guard attack featuring Brandon Justes who tallied 13 points in Central’s 66-55 victory over Oneida.
Also in the mix at guard for the Bulldogs are Austin Langley and Zach Moore who scored 11 against the Indians.
The challenge for Hampton will be in dealing the Central ‘Dogs their first loss on their home court. Wartburg finished the 2011-12 season 9-0 in the regular season, then cruised through the district and regional tournaments on its home floor and has yet to suffer a defeat.
“All we can do is keep doing what got us here,” Smith said. “We have to handle the ball well, take care of the basketball and play defense. But home court is a big key and I’m sure it will give them an advantage. We have to travel a pretty good way and try to win in a hostile gym.”
A victory will give Hampton a repeat trip to the ‘Boro and another shot at grabbing the brass ring. Game time is set for 7 p.m. at Wartburg Central High School.