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Bulloch Academy bounced by Pinecrest

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    COCHRAN, Ga. – It was a long night for Bulloch Academy forwards Darion Carter and Paul Son in the Gators’ second-round game in the GISA Class AA boys’ basketball tournament Saturday at Middle Georgia College.
    The Gator big men, who have been accustomed to ruling the paint against almost every opponent this season, ran into trouble against ‘Elite Eight’ opponent Pinecrest Academy.
    Paladin starters Mike Metz, Joe Neiner and Brenden Donahue combined for 34 points to lead the squad from Cumming, Ga. to a 59-46 victory and propel them into next week’s Class AA Final Four with Gatewood, Christian Heritage and Brookwood. The loss ends Bulloch Academy’s season at 19-8. 
    I knew there were big,” said Bulloch Academy head coach Chandler Dennard. “We didn’t do a good job of jacking them up in the paint or getting them into foul trouble.”
    Carter was the lone Gator in double figures, netting 14 against Pinecrest’s tough 2-3 zone. Son was limited to just a bucket.
“When someone goes to a 2-3 zone, you’ve got to hit some shots from the outside,” said Dennard. “We haven’t done a good job of that in the last two or three games.”
    Pinecrest (20-7) stacked the baseline with Metz, Neiner, Donahue and relieved them with John Drapeau and Jeff Terry, both of whom were the same height as the tall and lanky starting trio. Metz had a game-high 15 points while Neiner added 12 and Donahue had seven. The Gators were forced to be patient and seek the open lane to the basket. But those were few and far between.
    Still, the Gators mixed it up with the taller opponents.
    The Paladins took a 10-9 lead after the opening quarter and opened up as a six-point lead in the second. But Bulloch would always come back. The Gators were plagued by numerous forced and unforced turnovers and throwaways. On the other hand, the Bulloch backcourt trap, which usually works gathers in turnovers and turns them into transition baskets, was ineffective against Pinecrest.
    Carter knotted the score at 15-15 at the 5:14 mark with an eight-foot turnaround shot off the glass. Bulloch was poised to take the lead with at the 1:02 mark when Taylor Burke had a fabulous driving layup nullified by a traveling call. Jordan Walker’s sky-ball jumper with seconds remaining tied the contest at 20-20 for intermission.
    But in the third, Pinecrest took advantage of the turnovers to ease out to a slim lead.
    Donahue, Neiner and Metz kept the BA dynamic duo occupied as the Paladin offense quietly began to build up a lead. By the three-minute mark, the Paladins had a six-point advantage with a 30-24 lead. They stretched it to 36-29 by the buzzer.
    BA’s Chan Newton had the opening basket in the fourth to cut the PA lead to five, 36-31, and that would be as close as Bulloch got in the final quarter.
Pinecrest kept pounding on and wearing down Carter and Son. Meanwhile, the Gator outside game could not get going. Starters Walker and Will Powell combined for just six points while point guard Arne Bencker and Burke both added six.
    The Paladin inside game seemed to get stronger as Pinecrest took it down low for the easy layup. PA went ahead by as many as eight midway through the quarter and held that advantage, even increasing it to 12 at one time.
    The Gators tried to come back but there were to be no last-minute heroics for a miracle comeback because the Paladins converted on 12-of-16 free throws to put the game away.
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