Bulldogs tear through district
Earle senior Travonta Doolittle averaged 26.5 points in the pair of district contest
The postseason has arrived but so far has posed no problem for the Earle Bulldogs (23-7 overall) who won both of their district playoff games this past weekend, defeating the Brinkley Tigers (14-14) 76-46 this past Friday and downing the Claredon Lions (24-3) 61-55 on Saturday, in route to winning a district championship.
The Tigers kept it close with Earle after the opening stanza, trailing the Bulldogs just 19-14.
However, the reining Arkansas 2A Boys Basketball State Champions kicked into form after that, going on a 21-7 run in the second frame and carrying a commanding 60-33 lead into the final quarter.
That championship form was displayed mostly by none other than Earle’s captain, guard Travonta Doolittle who began the Bulldog’s pursuit of three straight state championships by pumping in 36 points in the first postseason game of the year.
Doolittle shot an impressive 80 percent from the field in the victory (16-of-20) while hauling in seven rebounds to tie junior forward Justin Brown for a team-high in boards.
Also aiding Earle’s mercy-rule victory, junior forward Darius Cisero pushed through 19 points in the win.
As a team, Earle owned almost every major stat category in the victory over the Tigers. The Bulldogs outrebounded Brinkley 32-23, stole 15 possessions from their opponents in route to 22 total Tigers turnovers and bullied their way to 52 points in the painted area.
The victory over Claredon, however, would require much more resilience.
After returning from the halftime break with a slim 26-24 advantage over the Lions, Earle caught fire, winning the third frame 17-7. It took every bit of that 43-31 advantage and every bit of fire power the Bulldogs still had in the tank to withstand a 24point fourth quarter by Claredon in order to secure the five-point victory.
Doolittle and Cisero once again teamed up to lead Earle on the scoreboard in the victory, this time both Bulldogs pumping in 17 points. Cisero grabbed six rebounds to Doolittle’s four, but it was Brown and Earle senior Ryan Johnson who pulled in seven rebounds a piece to lead the Bulldogs on the glass.
Those individual performances helped make up a 41-34 rebounding advantage for Earle.
Overall, the Bulldogs were limited to just 32 points inside, 40-percent shooting from the field and gave the ball back to the Lions 22 times.
Eighteen points in the final frame, however, helped Earle withstand the Lion’s roar and move on to the 2A Regionals on a winning note. Earle’s first opponents in the regional playoffs will be the Sloan-Hendrix Greyhounds (12-23). Tipoff between the Bulldogs and Greyhounds is slated for 5:30 p.m. this Wednesday in Marked Tree.
If Earle defeats Sloan-Hendrix on Wednesday, the Bulldogs will run into one of two familiar opponents in the second round of regionals on Friday, either East Poinsett County (1810) or a rematch with Brinkley. Earle went 2-0 in the regular season against East Poinsett County, winning the first contest by seven points and then claiming victory in the second game by six points.
By Collins Peeples