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Bulldogs near finale of pre-district season

By Brady Keane BCC Contributor

The Bandera Bulldogs opened up the 2013-2014 season on a roll, starting off 4-0 with the best record to begin a season in over 10 years. After hitting a bump in the road in the Hondo tournament, the Bulldogs have gotten back on track of late and are currently sitting at 8-6 with only a few games remaining before the beginning of the district season.
"We've had a good start to the season," junior point guard and leading scorer Ty Neff said. "However, we all have a lot of room to improve and we need to be able to play a full game every time we step on the court."
Winning the first four games of this season's campaign by a combined 68 points, the Bulldogs had only one early test coming against the Medina Valley Panthers. The game began in favor of the Panthers, however Bandera was able to pull ahead late and squeeze out a four point victory.
"Aside from showing us a lot of areas that we need to improve on, we found out a lot about our team," junior post player Noah Nelson said. "Even though it was only our second game playing together, we were able to come together as a team and overcome a double digit halftime deficit."
While the Bulldogs managed to pull out the close game, they have also picked up several blowouts thus far in the season. The biggest route for the team came in a 62-29 victory over Blanco, but the Bulldogs have also won games by 30, 27, and 23 this year.
"Sometimes the blowout games are the toughest to maintain your focus in," junior post Averie Mansfield said. "I think we have done a good job keeping our heads in those games, and it gives everyone a chance to get into the game which helps maintain our team chemistry."
The hardest loss came at the hands of the district rival Boerne Greyhounds, in the opening round of the afore mentioned Hondo Tournament. The Bulldogs held a lead for the majority of the game, but gave up 13 fourth quarter points while managing to score only three before Boerne was able to take a one point victory in overtime.
"It was tough," Neff said. "But it shows that we can play with teams in our district, and we still have two more shots at them."
One glaring weakness in each of the Bulldogs losses is certainly turnovers, and when the team is unable to take care of the ball it's been hard to get any momentum going on offense.
"Having less turnovers gives us more opportunities to score," senior point guard Jonathan Raitz said. "A lot of the teams we are going to play down the stretch thrive off of creating turnovers and getting easy buckets, so if we can control the ball we can force them into playing our game."
The biggest strengths up to this point for the Bulldogs have been the ability of Mansfield, Nelson, and junior Corey Jennings to consistently outrebound the opposition, as well as the outstanding shooting from Neff each night.
"The rebounding dominance we bring has made the difference between a win and a loss on multiple occasions," Jennings said. "Offensive boards have allowed us to put up the points we need, while defensively we continuously deny our opponents second shots."
In order to reach the "Big Ambitions" set by the team at the beginning of the season, the Bulldogs will need to continue to build off of their strengths while also eliminating key weaknesses.
"If we continue to outrebound, outhustle, and outwork our opponents while also cutting down on our turnovers we will be in good shape moving forward," Mansfield said.
The Bulldogs will finish up the pre-district season in the Fredericksburg Christmas Classic this Thursday-Saturday December 28, before heading to Devine on January 2, TMI on January 3, and finally Ingram on January 7. The Bulldogs begin district play on January 10 in Bandera, in a rematch against the Boerne Greyhounds.
"Everyone can expect an intense, aggressive game in our rematch with Boerne," Neff said. "Both teams know that it can be a huge game when the district season starts to wind down."