MACON – Basketball in Macon meant large crowds and a college-level atmosphere where two teams had to play their best if they hoped to capture a coveted state title.
This one featured Class AAAAA’s Dutchtown Bulldogs and Cedar Shoals’ Jaguars. Dutchtown’s journey wasn’t without some adversity. Cameron Bryant missed the Riverwood game and the Bulldogs relied on a Bryant three to reach the Final Four round.
No last second heroics were needed this time around as the Bulldogs won over Cedar Shoals 57-44 Friday night.
It was just some adversity that helped sweeten the state championship run for Jordan Griffin and the Bulldogs.
“We had to face a little bit of adversity in the Riverwood game and had to face a little bit in the Columbia game,” Griffin said. “Obviously, we made a big time shot to get us to the Final Four and just those things internally that you deal with. I think in the end, those things make us strong and what make us come together and find a sense of brotherhood. That’s what it’s all about. Rome wasn’t built in a day and I felt like this journey has been built on. This is just the start of something special at Dutchtown.”
It was a battle destined to be close or just a slam show for one side and Dutchtown came with the fire on the dunks. If you came for that, the count was one dunk for Jamaine Mann and two for Bryant who added an impressive one over a defender for the first big lead of the game.
But that’s just the second quarter. In the first, Cedar Shoals and Dutchtown remained in step with each other for quite a bit of time. Mann’s dunk on a fast break helped the Bulldogs get the first-quarter lead but it was still just one possession as the Bulldogs led 16-14.
It marked a team that slowed their own pace down and for the Griffin-led Bulldogs, it was a different look to the team that is prone to make those hustle plays quickly and effectively.
“We are the same team since we started,” Mann said. “We always want to play fast but we just played really good defense so it made them slow down and we slowed down. We played a good pace for us.”
It just didn’t happen that way and Cedar Shoals was causing some mistakes that the program hadn’t made before.
The Bulldogs didn’t have an overpowering offensive presence outside of their 60 percent shooting from the field at the start of the game.
With Mann leading the offense with seven points, Bryant found his stride in the second. Two different jams helped the Bulldogs get momentum with Bryant slamming one home over a defender in spectacular fashion, but one of two things stood out in the stat sheet.
Cedar Shoals wasn’t letting anyone really get control in a quarter. Bryant only struck for nine points and Kameron Hobbs, who usually gets good looks took three shots and missed each one. Mann also couldn’t get going either as he only scored two points over eight minutes.
The Jaguars’ biggest issue was their lack of scoring. The Jaguars’ last made shot came with 3:18 remaining in the second quarter. After halftime, it was just a battle of attrition for both sides.
Cedar Shoals finally scored again after six and a half minutes passed and the Bulldogs were the team that needed to find their own scores.
That came late in the third quarter but the slower-paced game didn’t really give the Bulldogs any clear leader. Outside of Mann reaching double-digit scoring at 15 points and notching 10 rebounds.
The fourth quarter found both teams ratchet up the intensity. But the Bulldogs who led by as much as 12 points just stayed the course on the floor. Lightning-quick passes from Hobbs returned despite his lack of scoring.
And the Bulldogs were looking to add some style points to their game late in the going with a lead touching 14 points with three minutes remaining, all the Bulldogs had to do was play consistent basketball.
Dutchtown led 49-35 and looked to be the program that would win. But the Jaguars weren’t ready to throw in the towel either.
Chipping into a deficit was a tall order against the Bulldogs but the Jaguars were on a mission to make it happen. Over a minute, a deficit began to shrink and Dutchtown had to stop going for the style points they were looking for.
Cedar Shoals was on a run but it ended in the final two minutes. Part of it was sending Mann to the free-throw line. Once to the line, it was almost written in plain print.
Dutchtown’s lead grew once more with the Bulldogs moving ahead 13 points and sealing the victory with a little bit of style from Jaelyn Anderson sealing the deal.
Mann led the Bulldogs with 20 points and 12 rebounds for a double-double. Bryant chipped in 18 points but that was it for the scoring efforts in double figures for the Bulldogs.