MIAMI — With four players scoring in double figures, the Miami Wardogs opened the basketball season Tuesday night with a 61-46 victory over the Jay Bulldogs in the Dogdome.
"We played a very ugly first half," Wardog head coach Rusty Mercer said.
"We really had a hard time getting into our halfcourt offense and even in our transition game we made some mistakes.
"Because we had some kids that were playing on the 'big stage' for the first time, it took us a long time to settle down," Mercer said. "During the second half we got a lot smoother in the execution of our offense and transition in the second half."
Eight lead changes highlighted the first quarter as both teams traded baskets.
Five points by Chuckie Larrabee along with four each by Chance Tuder and
Josh Ramsey and a layup by Jeremiah Daugherty gave Jay a 16-15 lead at the end of the first eight minutes.
Senior guard Trent Turner scored eight points along with a 3-point field goal by James Pickens along with layups by Tony Rodriguez and Kade Pogue to keep the Wardogs close.
Pickens canned a 3-pointer and Rodriguez added a layup to create a 20-20 tie with 5:50 until halftime.
A steal and layup by Turner along with a solo free throw gave Miami a brief 23-22 lead at the 4:25 juncture in the second quarter.
Back-to-back layups by Chris Toppah and Tuder allowed the Bulldogs to grab a 26-23 cushion with 3:45 before half.
"Because they get out and pressure the basketball, Jay forced a lot of our six miscues in the first half," Mercer said. "They just don't want you to get comfortable."
Field goals by Tuder and Parker Warner enabled Jay to carry a 30-29 lead to the locker room at intermission.
A 3-pointer by Seth Hudson and a putback from Tuder increased Jay's lead to 35-29 just one minute into the third quarter.
"As ugly as the first half was, we forced 15 turnovers," Mercer said. "And even though we were only 6 of 15 at the free throw line in the first two quarters, we wound up hitting 18 of 33 from the line.
"So we scored 61 points without a post up," Mercer said. "That's basically how we have to play by getting out in transition with our guards and get the ball to the rim."
Igniting a 15-4 run with a 3-pointer by Pickens, the Wardogs constructed a
44-39 lead heading into the final quarter. Four points by Rodriguez along with two field goals by Casey Hunter and one by Johnny Brice and two free throws by Keaton Blevins fueled the Wardog rally.
"Even though we don't have a guy we can post up down low and score," Mercer said. "We do have several guys that can get the ball to the rim and score."
A 3-pointer by Kade Pogue along with two free throws each by Pickens and
Hunter and a layup by Brice increased the wardogs lead to 54-40 with 5:10 remaining in the game.
During the final four minutes, Hunter canned a short jump shot and added two free throws while Turner added two free throws and Brice hit one charity shot to close out Miami's scoring.
Pickens, who went 4 of 6 from 3-point range, led the Wardogs with 15 total points while Turner contributed 12 and Rodriguez and Hunter combined for 11 points each.
Tuder paced the Bulldogs with 14 total points.