News: Bulldogs make no excuse for injuries, long season
Story by Sgt. Christopher Zahn
QUANTICO,Va. - But the season has also exacted a costly toll on the team. Five players have missed significant time due to injuries, while Marine Corps commitments have also forced several players to miss games.
“When on Marine goes down, another one has to step up. That’s just how we are,” said James Jones, the head coach of the Bulldogs. “I’m not going to use injuries as an excuse for poor play. We’re the two-time defending champs; no one is going to have any pity for us.”
It was readily apparent during their home game against the Joint Base Andrews Falcons on Sunday, that these are not the same Bulldogs who blew Andrews out by 40 points the last time they played. The Bulldogs had to battle to win a game that was in doubt even in the final seconds. The 93-87 victory was a lot closer than the final score.
The two teams battled to a standoff in the first half, with the Falcons holding a one-point advantage at the half, 42-41. But the stalemate ended shortly after that.
The Falcons repeatedly burned the Quantico pressure defense with a rain of 3’s and open looks for layups as they quickly built a eight-point lead early in the second half.
But the Bulldogs responded with strong plays in the paint from their big men, Chris Williams and Nathan Sales. Their ability to snatch rebounds and score over the smaller Andrews defense erased the deficit and kept Quantico in the game. It wouldn’t last though.
With both big men for Quantico on the bench, the Falcons made another run to take a commanding 14-point lead midway through the half. Looking to stop the run, Jones called timeout to gather his team and get his best inside weapons back in the game.
“If we’re going to make a run, we need to do it right now,” Williams said to his teammates during the timeout.
Sales and Williams put the team on their backs again, swarming for rebounds and layups to slash the lead to six points. Their inspired play revitalized the Bulldogs defense and with 5 minutes left in the game, Andrews only led by three. Quantico crept within one point with free throws by Sales and guard Brandon Mitchell to make it 82-81.
Then with 3 minutes left, Quantico broke the game open. A three-pointer by Mitchell caused the bench to erupt and gave the Bulldogs a 84-82 lead, their first of the half. Willie Nathan drove to the basket for a layup and a foul, which he easily drained. Sales was fouled inside and made two free throws. While Mitchell hopped past the Falcon defense for a layup and the free throw. With less than a minute to play, Quantico had changed the game and took a commanding 91-82 lead.
The Falcons wouldn’t go away that easily. They took advantage of two lapses in defense to score on a layup and 3-pointer to pull within four points with 30 seconds left.
Andrews was forced to foul Willie Nathan to stop the clock, putting him on the free throw line to seal the game. With a smile and a wink at his coach, Nathan calmly swished both shots to end all chances of a miracle comeback and seal a 93-87 victory.
Quantico has two more games, both on the road, before the playoffs begin and they push for their third consecutive WAMAC title. They play Naval Support Activity Bethesda on March 4 and will end the season with a rivalry game against JMB-HH on March 11. But they are also playing for more important things than a title.
“To me, us going out there and representing the Corps the right way is more important than any game,” Jones said. “It’s a privilege to play ball.”