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WildCats Edge Out Eagles 74-73

Elijah Ford going up for a basket
Elijah Ford scored 14 points and pulled down nine rebounds for Randolph.

LYNCHBURG, Va.- The Randolph men's basketball team returned to the hardwood on Sunday afternoon as it hosted Bridgewater in a big Old Dominion Athletic Conference game. The Eagles rallied late in the second half but the WildCats were able to withstand the Bridgewater flurry to win 74-73.

The victory improves Randolph's overall record to 4-1 and evens its ODAC record at 1-1. Bridgewater falls to 1-3 overall and 0-1 in the conference.

It was a shaky beginning to the game as both teams traded missed shots. The WildCats led 1-0 after Sammy Hooper (Richmond, Va./Midlothian) made the second of two free throw attempts at 17:51. The two squads traded baskets with neither establishing momentum. A brief 7-2 run put the visitors up 19-14 with 10:17 remaining in the half.

Bridgewater led by as much as seven points, 24-17, with 9:24 to go in the first half. A 6-0 run by the 'Cats made it a one-point game at 7:46. The Eagles got up again by five points, 30-25, before Randolph was able to cut the lead to a single point. Following a layup from Bridgewater's Dimetri Chambers, Hooper responded with a trey to knot the game at 32-32 with just under two minutes left. Two CJ Loving (Madison Heights, Va./Amherst County) free throws lifted the WildCats to a 34-32 lead at 1:26. Chambers tied it again with a pair of free throws with 48 ticks left but an Elijah Ford (Chantilly, Va./Chantilly) layup with 34 seconds remaining gave Randolph a 36-34 lead at halftime.

In the second half, Brian Smith (Dumfries, Va./C.D. Hylton) increased the WildCats' lead to seven with a layup and three-point shot. Bridgewater stayed within arm's length of Randolph as the WildCats' advantage stayed within six points.

With Randolph clinging to a 45-43 lead with 14:30 left on the game clock, the WildCats went on a 12-2 run punctuated by Brandon's Schlick's (Virginia Beach, Va./Greenbrier Christian) three-point basket to give the 'Cats their biggest lead of the day at 57-45 with 11:10 left. The Eagles responded with seven straight points after calling timeout to cut the WildCat advantage to 57-52 at 6:44.

The WildCats got back six of those points to up their lead to 63-52 but the Eagles erased that with a quick six points. Bridgewater rallied to make it a one-possession contest, 68-66, with just under two minutes remaining.  Randolph led 72-68 with 1:20 to play but Bridgewater scored five points to go ahead 73-72 with 22 ticks remaining. Jerry Goodman (Suffolk, Va./Portsmouth Christian School) sunk two free throws to give Randolph a one-point lead with 16 seconds left. Chambers drove down the lane for the potential game-winning layup but Ford blocked the shot and Chandler Murray missed a jumper with time expiring.

"The good from it is we were able to rebound from a slow start rather quickly," said head coach Pete Hamilton. "We executed defensively very well for a lot of the game. Because we had a group out there that could execute defensively, that's why we won the game."

Hooper led the WildCats with 16 points on 7-of-12 shooting. He also had five rebounds. Smith added 15 points and four assists. Ford scored 14 points as he shot 6-of-8 from the floor to go along with nine rebounds, three blocks, and three steals. Justin Dula (Taylorsville, N.C./Alexander Central) added nine points and dished out three assists. His 16 rebounds were a career-high and the most for a WildCat in a game since Derrick Woods-Morrow pulled down 16 in 2012.

Randolph shot 45.5% (25-of-55) from the floor compared to 41.5% (27-of-65) for Bridgewater. The 'Cats controlled the glass with a 42-32 rebounding advantage.

The WildCats are home again this Wednesday as they host Apprentice School. Tipoff is 7:30 following the women's game.