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December 17, 2013

Bulldogs fall short against Hornets

MEADVILLE — For three quarters, the sharp-shooting Anthony Cannone had no answer for Meadville’s Faizon McClure. But not even McClure’s strong defensive effort was enough to contain the returning all-Region 5 second teamer in the fourth with the game on the line.

Cannone, who was just 1 of 9 through the first three quarters, knocked down three 3-pointers and scored 15 points in the fourth quarter as Hickory rallied back to defeat Meadville 62-61 in a thriller on Tuesday at the House of Thrills.

“Exciting. Exciting,” said Hickory’s first-year head coach Geoff Evans. “Unfortunately, we didn’t play well. We didn’t play well for the first three-and-a-half quarters. And luckily we had Anthony stepped up in the fourth quarter.”

Meadville looked as though it might steal one away from the defending Region 5 champions last night.

The Bulldogs trailed 26-23 at halftime, but opened the second half with an 11-2 run to take a 34-28 lead with 5:51 to play in the third quarter.

Hickory rallied back and took a 37-36 lead on a pair of free throws by Donte Green with 4:01 remaining in the period. But Meadville finished with a 10-2 run, sparked by a 3-pointer by Jason Clune, to finish the third quarter up 46-39.

Hickory managed to pull back within two (48-46) in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs, again, answered with a run to take their largest lead of the game (54-46) with 4:41 left to play.

Enter Cannone.

“We bottled him up most of the game,” Meadville head coach Mark McElhinny said. “But you can’t keep him down for long.”

Cannone hit a pair of free throws and then knocked down a trey to pull the Hornets to within three (54-51) with just under three minutes to play. Hickory eventually tied it up at 56-56, and Cannone gave the Hornets a 58-56 lead on a bank shot with a minute-and-a-half remaining.

Clune put the Bulldogs back in front (61-60) with his fourth 3-pointer of the game with 38 ticks on the clock. Green converted on a tough shot at the other end 20 seconds later to put Hickory on top 62-61.

Meadville had a couple of opportunities in the final six seconds, but couldn’t convert.

“I feel so bad for the kids, because they worked so hard,” McElhinny said. “They’re diving on the floor, blocking shots, taking charges. It was just a great game. Disappointing we didn’t finish it.”

Cannone wound up with 17 points on the night. He was a perfect 4-for-4 from the field in the fourth quarter.

“He is still getting some legs back from football,” Evans said. “And McClure played a heck of a game defensively. He really got after him and made him force a couple of shots. Our guys weren’t really setting screens for him well. But as the game wore on, I think Anthony started getting his legs and gained some confidence in that fourth quarter.”

Clune had another big day for the Bulldogs. He finished with a game-high 23 points and also added seven rebounds. But it wasn’t enough to overshadow what could have been a big win for the Bulldogs.

“You’ve got to win on your home floor in this region,” Clune said. “It’s a tough loss. We’ll get back at it (Wednesday) and go get Slippery Rock on Friday.”

Meadville fell to 1-4 overall and 0-2 in Region 5 with the loss. Hickory improved to 3-1 overall and 1-1 in the region.

McClure was also in double figures for the Bulldogs with 16 points. Shequon Lindsey added eight points — all coming in the third quarter — and also contributed nine rebounds and three blocks. Jacob Gregor finished with seven points.

Aaron Conley had 11 points for Hickory.

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