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Bulldogs battle Liberty Hill in tourney play

By Sandy Jennings BCC Contributor

The much anticipated battle between state-ranked Liberty Hill (5) and Bandera's state-ranked Bulldogs (19) proved worthy of the pre-game buzz when the two teams clashed on the court in the final game of the Fredericksburg Holiday Classic Tournament this past week.
The Bulldogs, who won their first three games of the tourney, struggled against the Panthers early, falling behind 10-4 after the first quarter. The second quarter proved even more challenging for Bandera, adding only one basket to their tally and allowing Liberty Hill 11 points.
"While holding the high powered Panthers to only 21 first half points was a feat worth mentioning (the Panthers were averaging 95 points per game), only scoring 6 points in the process is not a good thing," Head Basketball Coach Bob Shearhart said.
The Dogs offense came to life in the second half, with Bandera outscoring the Panthers 35-31.
"At the end of three quarters the score was Liberty Hill 36 and Bandera 20, but the last eight minutes saw the Dogs battle back," Shearhart said. "At one point, the lead had been cut to five, only to see it extend again. By the end of the game, while Bandera outscored the Panthers in the final quarter 21-16, the final score was what counted...52-41 Liberty Hill."
Bandera, who reigns in Region IV with Liberty Hill, hopes to meet up with the Panthers again in the State playoffs.
Leading on the scoreboard against the Panthers were Ty Neff with 18, Corey Jennings with 8, Noah Nelson with 7, and Averie Mansfield with 6.
In earlier tournament play the Bulldogs took on the Llano Yellowjackets. After the first quarter, the Dogs held a 4 point lead 16-12. By the half, Bandera had extended the lead to 8 points 29-21.
After working out the holiday kinks, the Bulldogs opened it up the third quarter, outscoring Llano 19-4. By the end of the game Llano had cut into the lead, but it was too late. The final score was Bandera 57, Llano 40. Neff led the Dogs with 18 and Nelson added 12.
The second game of the tournament had the Bulldogs facing the Graham Steers. The Bulldogs wasted no time roping the Steers.
"Behind Neff's 12 point first quarter and the dominant board play of Mansfield, Nelson, and Jennings, the Dogs outscored the Steers 22-8," Shearhart said. By the half, Bandera was up 32-15.
"Strong bench play from JT. Milner, Nick Salas, and Ethan George helped the Bulldogs fight off a third quarter push from the Steers as the lead was cut to 9," Shearhart said. By the end of the game, Bandera held off Graham 60-46. Nelson led the Dogs with 15 points, followed by Neff with 14, Mansfield with 11, Brady Keane with 8, Milner with 5, Jennings with 4, George with 2, and Ruben Vargas with 1.
The second day of the tournament pitted the Bulldogs against Fort Bend Christian. After one quarter of play Bandera trailed 10-14. When the horn blew for half time, the Dogs were down 31-26.
The third quarter saw a swing in the momentum. Sparked by Neff's 10 points, the Bulldogs outscored Fort Bend 19-12 to take a 2 point lead going into the last 8 minutes. Timely defensive stops and some key free throw shooting propelled the Dogs to their third victory of the tournament. Bandera outscored Fort Bend 23-10 in the last quarter to win the game 67-53. Leading all scorers was Neff with 32 points, followed by Nelson with 10, Mansfield with 9, and Keane, Utah Hicks, and Salas each added 5 points.
Neff, Mansfield and Nelson were selected to the All-Tournament team.
Bandera will travel to Burnet on Friday to take on the Bulldogs with a 5 pm tipoff. The Bulldogs will open District play on Friday, Jan. 16, at Lytle High School.