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Holmes Overcomes 22-Point Deficit to Beat Lloyd

Holmes overcame a 22-point first half deficit to pull of the home win over Lloyd, 65-55, on Tuesday night.

“We didn't quit. We had plenty of opportunities,” Holmes head coach Mike Listerman said after the game.

The first quarter did not provide many of those opportunities for the Bulldogs as Lloyd came out of the gates smoking, up 19-2 at one point. Lloyd sophomore swingman Sterling Hamilton was especially sharp in the early going, as he had 12 points, two blocks and two steals in the quarter. Hamilton is a matchup problem for other teams because he is tall and rangy, but also demonstrated an ability to drive to the hoop with his left and knock down open jumpers from beyond the mark. If there was a star in the first half, it was Hamilton and not Holmes guard James “Beetle” Bolden.

“Our best player wasn't playing like our best player should,” Listerman said of Bolden who was limited with foul trouble all night and finished with only nine points before fouling out midway through the fourth quarter. Even when Bolden was playing, he never looked to have found the game's rhythm and forced a lot of bad shots and silly turnovers in the first half.

“I think he's pressing,” said Bulldog assistant coach John Wimsey. “Everybody's double teaming him and playing zone against him. Pressing a little bit trying to get himself going.”

With two minutes left in the first half, Lloyd was up 34-16 and looked in total control. At one point, Listerman took all five of his starters out and gave them a stern talking to on the bench.

“After a little attitude adjustment, sometimes sitting on the bench makes you realize that maybe I really do like being on the floor more than I like sitting over there watching it,” he said afterward.

That's when the coach called for the full-court press, and that spelled the beginning of the end for the Juggernauts.

“I thought we could guard them man-to-man. They got some nice set shooters, and I didn't want to give up a lot of open looks, but we got down so we didn't have much choice but to press them,” said Listerman. “I still think we can play them man-to-man but we sure didn't. We were pretty porous.”

After halftime, the press got a hold of the Lloyd confidence and the second-guessing with the ball began. That indecision led to a bevy of second half turnovers by the Juggernauts who finished with 23 total on the game, despite taking good care of the ball in the early stages. Senior guard Blake Donovan found the going especially difficult ending with the dubious stat line of eight turnovers and zero points.

It was a slow collapse for Lloyd that was mostly made possible by the Holmes athletic supremacy, not only on the defensive end with all the steals and forced turnovers from the press, but also with their ability to get to the rim off the dribble with their quick guards not named Bolden.

“We didn't buy a basket early, I didn't think we took the best of shots,” Coach Listerman said. “The thing we did later on was take the ball to the basket. Once we started doing that and scored a couple of baskets, everything loosened up.”

Senior guard Markel McClendon led the Bulldogs on the evening with 24 points and seven steals, and Mark Mullins chipped in 13 points and three steals as their quickness allowed them to beat their man to the basket on a regular basis in the second half. Center Rod Avery was also the beneficiary to that dribble-drive penetration as he was able to find points off the assists from the guards, including a big time slam dunk along the baseline in the late going. Avery finished with 14 points.

Hamilton led Lloyd with 20 points, three blocks and three steals. 

“Tonight you saw how good we can be and how bad we can be,” Listerman said.

Once the Bulldogs took the lead shortly after halftime, they never looked back and pressed Lloyd into handing them the victory.

“How many teams lose their best player, Mr. Basketball candidate, Division I player, and were down 19 points, and fight back,” Coach Wimsey said.

“That's the one thing I'm pleased the most with, in the last two games, we've showed the ability to keep playing and play the whole game. So if there is anything rubbing off, I hope it's that,” Listerman added.

Next for the Bulldogs is the Battle for the Bluegrass tournament in Louisville where they will play Bullitt East who was last year's 7th Region runner up.

“It's big time. The best of the best. We will have our hands full. We can't play like we played tonight. Usually our kids respond to those challenges,” said Listerman.

Story & photo by Bryan Burke, associate editor

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