The emotion of senior night got to Dublin twice.
First, it came early, and Bleckley County took advantage — albeit temporarily — and grabbed a seven-point lead.
The second time was in the locker room at halftime, and that was the beginning of the end for Bleckley County’s chances.
The Irish scored six points in the first 65 seconds of the third quarter and maintained control for an 86-70 win Friday night over the Royals in a GHSA Region 3-2A game.
It was the reaction at halftime of sophomore Bruce Guyton, Dublin head coach Paul Williams said, that awakened the Irish, who led 41-37 at the break.
Guyton’s first-half minutes were decreased because of foul trouble, and the Irish had taken the lead for good on Malik Jones’ three-point play with 5:36 left in the half.
Devin Durham steal, spin move and layup with 1:40 left in the third quarter put the Irish up 59-47, and the deficit dropped below that only once the rest of the way.
Dublin remained perfect in eight region games, and 17-3 overall, while Bleckley County fell to 13-10 and 8-3.
Four who mattered
Kameron Pauldo: The junior guard had all of four points at halftime, on a field goal in the first quarter and two free throws in the second. He scored two of the Irish’s first three buckets of the third quarter and then was perfect on 10 free throws in the fourth quarter, making for a perfect night at the line on 12 tries en route to 31 points.
Guyton: The stocky sophomore did all his damage in the first half, getting all 10 points and three rebounds, while manning the paint on defense throughout the game.
Torenio Davis: The Royals’ 6-foot-3 junior led the way with 19 points, although he was held to only a 3-pointer in the second quarter as Dublin stepped up its defense.
Holden Baisden: He was big in the second half, like Pauldo. The 5-10 senior had two first-quarter 3-pointers and helped the Irish close things out with a 5-for-6 fourth quarter from the line.
Taking advantage: Dublin made Bleckley County pay for fouls. The Irish were a better-than-normal 25-of-30 from the line, led by Pauldo’s perfection. The Royals were 11-for-17.
Slightly undermanned: Bleckley County, which lost the first meeting 59-47 on Jan. 20, was without a pair of regulars, Willie Taylor and Markell Marshall, who were on football recruiting visits. Taylor, a Washington State football commit, stands 6-5, so the Royals were a little thin inside.
Also Friday night
Jessica Hollis got a 19-footer from the top of the key to rattle in with three seconds left to lift Dublin to a 45-44 win in the girls game.
The shot bailed out Dublin, which scored only two points in the first quarter. The Irish rebounded with a 19-point second quarter, with Bridgette Wooden getting all six of her points in the quarter.
Hollis led the Irish (15-6, 6-3) with 17 points, while Bleckley County (14-10, 8-4) got a game-high 18 points from Jahnaria Brown topped all scorers with 18 points.
They said it
Williams on the slow start: “It was 7-0. I took the seniors out, told them to relax, get themselves together.”
Williams on the gist of his halftime talk: “I can’t say that, you can’t repeat that (laughing). It was basically, ‘This is senior night, you play for the seniors, and we’re family.’ I just felt like we were half-stepping on defensive assignments, we weren’t swinging the ball as much as we do.”
Bleckley County head coach John Stanley: “Some missed free throws here and there, some little things. We have a bunch of young kids, and they made some young-kids mistakes. … We’ve got three sophomore starters. … We have one senior on the team.”
Williams on Guyton’s spark: “This is a real close-knit bunch. … He got real emotional, and everybody kind of looked, because we’ve been trying to get that buy-in. (When) he gets it, it’s over with. But they didn’t expect it.”
Stanley on Dublin’s performance: “They amped up their defense in the third period, and we didn’t respond.”
Dublin visits county rival East Laurens on Saturday, the doubleheader starting at 6 p.m. Bleckley County steps out of region play and hosts Veterans on Tuesday.