CARLISLE -- It just wasn’t the Bulldogs or Lady Bulldogs night.
Both Quitman basketball teams suffered through a poor second quarter and created a gap that neither could overcome in the quarterfinals of the 2A state tournament.
The boys dropped a 68-46 decision to East Poinsett County, while the girls were handed a 70-58 setback by Earle.
“This is just a game,” Quitman coach Timothy Hooten said. “What’s more important to me is what they do tomorrow. Take the value of game, the work ethic, the teamwork, and all of those things and add them to your life. That is what this suppose to teach you.”
For Hooten’s Lady Bulldogs, their season was also ended last year by Earle, with that loss coming in the state championship game.
Friday’s re-match started off well for Quitman as Nicki Hooten and Lucy Holland combined score 12 of the Lady Bulldogs 14 points in the quarter. A Nicki Hooten basket with 48 seconds to play in the period would give Quitman a 14-11 advantage.
But Earle (25-5) responded with a basket with less than 30 seconds to play in the quarter to trail, 14-13, heading into the second stanza.
In the second quarter, the Earle Bulldogs would outscore Quitman, 20-9, as they built a 33-23 halftime advantage. Quitman could only manage a Nicki Hooten jumper with 2:55 left before the half for its only field goal in the quarter -- the rest of the Lady Bulldog points came from the free-throw line.
Earle, which would suffer a 49-47 setback to Riverside in the semifinals on Saturday, used a 7-0 run in the first 1:18 of the third quarter to push its advantage to 17 before Quitman would start chipping away at the deficit.
A pair of Taylor Jo Hooten 3-pointers and one by Nicki Hooten fueled a 9-0 run for the Lady Bulldogs, but an 8-1 run followed by Earle making the score, 48-33, with 1:54 left in the quarter.
But the quarter closed on another run by the Lady Bulldogs, 3-pointers by Nicki Hooten and Gracie Smith, as well as a Smith free throw, closed out the period with Quitman down 48-40.
The Lady Bulldogs kept it within single digits early in the fourth quarter before Earle used a 9-2 run over the next three minutes to put the game away.
“They were quick, they were fast, and they shoot well,” Timothy Hooten said of Earle. “We didn’t shoot well in first half. I thought we played well in the second half, but we gave up a big second quarter and we dug ourselves a hole that we could never get out of.
“Maybe I should have changed the game plan, but that’s what we’ve done all year. What do you do? At this point of the year, you have to play your game that way you have done all year.”
Quitman finishes the season with a 28-7 record and champions of the 2A-5 North conference and district titles, as well as winning the central regional tournament for the fourth consecutive season.
“I thought it was really good year,” Timothy Hooten said. “Twenty-eight wins, anytime you have 20-plus win season you are doing something right.”
It was the final game for senior Nicki Hooten, a four-year starter.
“When she was a freshman, we lost in the semifinals,” Timothy Hooten said. “We won it all when she was a sophomore. We were runner-up when she was a junior. She has been an integral part of this program for four years.”
Quitman scoring (58): Nicki Hooten 28, Gracie Smith 14, Lucy Holland 10, Taylor Jo Hooten 6.
For the boys, things started well against East Poinsett County.
A Zac Shue 3-pointer gave Quitman a 3-2 lead, but the Warriors would go on an 8-2 run to lead at 10-5 with 3:44 left in the quarter.
The Bulldogs settled down the rest of the stanza pulling to within one at 12-11 after a 3-pointer by Shue, a Jake Ballard basket and Brandon Blankenship free throw with 2:06 left in the first.
Quitman would trailed 15-13 heading into the second quarter, before East Poinsett County (14-14) would on a 13-2 run to lead 28-15 with 4:03 left before the half.
A pair of David Alvarez free throws and an Ethan Brantley lay-up made it a nine-point game at 28-19 with 2:34 left before halftime.
Quitman would trail 33-20 at the half and wouldn’t get within single digits again as the Warriors, who dropped a 66-47 decision to England in the semifinals on Saturday, out the Bulldogs, 22-15, in the third quarter.
“We started out in our 1-3-1 zone match-up, in which we’ve done great out of all year long, we were in the ballgame,” Quitman coach Brandon Burgener said. “And I switched us in to man-to-man, that was huge mental mistake on my part.
“We couldn’t match up to them man-to-man. I thought we could and they went on a little bit of a run, and we just couldn’t dig ourselves out of that hole. They were knocking down shots early and I took the gamble and I lost that one. My kids deserved better than that. Third-year coach and I still have a lot of learn. I thought EPC played extremely well. They just played harder than us in the end.”
Quitman finished the season with a 25-9 record winning the school’s first senior boys state tournament game as well as taking home the 2A-5 North district tournament title.
“My kids battle every night and you can’t replace that,” Burgener said.”There are going to be years that I have teams that aren’t nearly as talented as the one I put on the floor tonight, but my teams are always going to do one thing and this is work hard.
“And that team is one thing, they are talented and they battled every single night. Teams can get complacent every day in practice. They can get complacent during games and think we have enough talent to just come out and play, and that team has never done that. They show up every day to practice with a chip on their shoulder, we are here to get better and not get complacent and remain the same. I owe everything to that group of seniors, that group of juniors, that group of sophomores that I just put out there. They work their tails for me and I am just proud of them.”
It was the final game for Quitman seniors Brandon Blankenship, Drake Peterson, Josh Main, David Alvarez, Isaac Clemmons and Trey Lovelady.
“I don’t how we are going to replace them,” Burgener said. “I wish I had the words right now to talk about them. I really don’t. Emotional night for me. You never want to say goodbye to a group of guys that you love and spend all of that time with.”
Quitman scoring (46): Ethan Brantley 13, David Alvarez 8, Zac Shue 6, Trey Lovelady 6, Isaac Clemmons 4, Brandon Blankenship 4, Drake Peterson 3, Jake Ballard 2.