By Austin Eads, SWT Sports Writer
There is nothing quite like a rivalry game.
The Pulaski Middle School Orioles hosted the Dublin Middle School Dukes in front of a record setting crowd on Thursday night. Thursday’s game featured plenty of good old fashioned hard fouls and even a few very pleasant surprises.
Right from the tip-off, you could tell that these two teams wanted more than anything to win this rivalry game. The Orioles flew out of the gates, using their patented formula of forcing turnovers, running in transition and shooting with great precision from beyond the arc to go up on the Dukes 15-4 in the first quarter.
The Dukes however were determined to make the game close, scoring the first 4 points of the second quarter thanks to some tough post play from Jaden Frazier. The Orioles were quick to respond however, having great success shooting against the Dukes zone defense to go into the second half with a 29-11 lead.
The action didn’t slow down a bit in the third quarter, as both teams were still highly motivated to get win the game. The Orioles adapted their game plan a bit and ran more set plays because Dublin changed from zone to man defense. This subtle change helped the Dukes make up some ground at first, but the Orioles were eventually able to outrun the man defense and score a few hard earned points, making the score at the end of the third quarter 39-17.
The fourth quarter featured no break in the action, as both teams went back and forth down the court, with each possession more contested than the last. In the end, the Orioles were able to finish strong and take home a victory over the Dukes 49-23.
The Dukes coaching staff was pleased in spite of the loss. “I’m proud of my guys, they’ve put in a lot of hard work this entire year,” Coach Harold Artison said. “Tonight just wasn’t our night, we put our best foot forward and unfortunately lost to a good basketball team,” Artison said in summation of the game.
The Orioles coaching staff was also very happy with the way their team played.
“This was a very spirited rivalry game and our guys handled it well. We were able to jump out early and were able to build on our lead from there,” Coach Anthony Akers said. Akers also talked about the season in its entirety.
“This was a great season. I am very proud of these fine young men. It has been a pleasure to coach them,” Akers said.
Orioles coach Dave Hart was also available for comment about the season after the game.
“These guys really bought into the prospect of team basketball from the very beginning of the season. Every single player on this team has a team first mentality, and that really shows how high their basketball IQ’s are and is the reason we were successful as a team.
Coach CJ Burgis, or “the brains of the operation” as he is often referred to by Coach Akers, also gave a statement during the postgame interviews.
“These are some of the greatest kids that I have ever had the opportunity to help coach. This has been a great year,” Coach Burgis said.
The Dukes had five players in the scoring column on Thursday night. Jaden Frazier led the way with 10 points, with Cole Duncan adding 5 points and Connor Martin adding 4 points. Kellen Dalton put up 3 points and Benjamin Poe pitched in 1 point to round out the Dukes scoring.
The Orioles had six players in the scoring column on the night. CC Grubb led all scorers on the night with 14 points, while Alex Akers and Sean Spencer put up 10 points each. Trent Blankenship scored 9 points, with Noah Kyle adding 4 points and Conner Turpin adding 2 points to round out the Orioles scoring.
The Orioles are finished with basketball for the year, but five of their players will be playing JV basketball at Pulaski County High School for the remainder of the season. Those five players are CC Grubb, Noah Kyle, Trent Blankenship, Sean Spencer and Alex Akers. Those five will be joined by two Dublin players, Jaden Frazier and Braeden Blevins.
You can see these players suit up for JV Cougars on Friday evening as they welcome the Salem Spartans to the “Cougar Den” for a game at 5:30 p.m.