FARMINGDALE — The outcome looked bleak for the Hall-Dale boys basketball team after 6-foot-6 center Sam Shepherd went down with a sprained ankle in the first quarter and didn’t return.

But the Bulldogs battled back from a halftime deficit to catch visiting St. Dominic in the fourth quarter en route to a 51-50 Mountain Valley Conference win.

Shepherd sprained his ankle going in for a layup with 1 minute, 50 seconds left in the first quarter. He returned to the bench in the second half on a pair of crutches.

“It changes what we can do defensively,” Hall-Dale coach Chris Ranslow said. “We like to get up and overplay a little bit when he’s back there. When he went out, we had to go more traditional.”

The Bulldogs led 15-10 when Shepherd left but the Saints exploited his absence getting key hoops from Eric Ulin and Zak Johnson to take a 28-22 lead at the half. Hall-Dale went to its senior veterans in the second half, beginning with Zac Plummer, who scored nine of his 13 points in the third quarter which ended tied at 39.

“We needed the ball to go through Plummer and (Mike) Woods,” Ranslow said.

Hall-Dale sophomore Brian Allen (15 points) opened the fourth period with two layups and a putback to give the Bulldogs a 45-41 lead they never relinquished. The Saints went to an effective full-court zone press that caused several Hall-Dale turnovers and they were able to draw to within one, 47-46, when Michael Bryant canned a 3 from the left corner with 1:19 left.

Woods responded with a driving bank shot then hit two free throws with five seconds to play before Novak Liu hit a 3 at the buzzer. Ulin led St. Dom’s (3-5) with 13 points while Johnson added 11. Hall-Dale (6-3) got good minutes from sophomores Nat Crocker, Bryson Camp and Wesley Lapointe and junior Taylor Lockhart.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638

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