By Chris McCarthy/Editor
No Haas, no problem for Hokes Bluff on Tuesday (Dec. 2).
With Purdue University signee and 7’2 senior center Isaac Haas spending the majority of the second half on the bench with a sore knee, the Eagles (6-1) posted a 62-51 win over Gaston at HBHS.
Hokes Bluff extended a seven-point halftime lead to 14 at the start of the fourth quarter, and the Bulldogs never got within single digits the rest of the way.
Haas finished with 13 points, all in the first half. He landed hard on the floor about midway through the first quarter.
“We pulled Issac out more as a precautionary measure,” said Hokes Bluff head coach Greg Watkins. “He was playing well, but it gave us a chance to give some other guys some reps. He’ll get checked out, but I think he’ll be fine.”
Watkins was pleased in the way his squad continued to work the boards with Haas out.
“Kaden Moore especially had a lot of offensive rebounds. We also lost [junior guard] David Franklin around the same time as we did Isaac, so we were actually down two starters at that point. That kind of messed up our sub rotations, so I’m proud of our guys for stepping up when we needed them to.”
Moore led the Eagles with 15 points, followed by Brack Shields with 10.
Gaston head coach Buddy Wright acknowledged that his team put itself in a difficult position early on when Hokes Bluff entered the bonus free throw situation 27 seconds into the second quarter.
“We came into the ballgame knowing that Haas was going to gets his touches, but we wanted to try and eliminate everybody else,” said Wright. “But we got into foul trouble and kind of dug ourselves a ditch that we couldn’t quite climb out of. Our defense was still there in the second half, but we just couldn’t get into an offensive rhythm and couldn’t get our shots to fall. But a lot of that has to do with conditioning, and once we do get into game shape, I think that some of those shots will fall.”
Haas started off the game with literal bang, as he scored the Eagles’ first eight points. Two of those baskets were dunks and another was a dunk off an alley-oop pass from Franklin that made it 8-2.
Respective 3-point baskets from Braxton Collins and Javonte Pope drew the Bulldogs within two points, but Moore’s jumper with 34 seconds left put the hosts ahead 16-10 after eight minutes.
Shields went 6-for-6 at the foul line in the second period as part of a 13-2 Eagle run that made it 33-18. Four points from Shai Ogles and a pair from free throws from Collins narrowed the gap to 33-25 at the half.
Four points from Albert Douglas early in the third quarter drew Gaston within 35-28, but that was the final time the visitors were within single digits. Phillip Ward’s basket at 1:53 capped a 13-3 stretch that provided Hokes Bluff with a 48-34 lead entering the fourth period.
The Eagles led by as many as 20 points in the final eight minutes before Gaston closed out the game with a 12-3 run.
“Coach Wright does a good job with Gaston,” Watkins added. “They always play you tough and aggressive, and I was glad that we were able to handle their pressure.”