FARMINGDALE — Since renewing their rivalry in the late 1990s, there’s been little to choose between the Winthrop and Hall-Dale boys basketball teams. Even in their recent state championship years — Hall-Dale in 2005 and Winthrop in 2008 — neither could take the other for granted.
Tuesday night, in the first of their two meetings this season, the Mountain Valley Conference rivals put on a competitive show with Winthrop pulling away in the fourth quarter for a 52-41 victory. Results leave Winthrop at 7-2 and Hall-Dale at 6-2 with a second meeting scheduled in Winthrop on Jan. 24.
“We’re close rivals with Hall-Dale so it’s always fun to come down and play them,” said Winthrop junior Dakota Carter, who scored a team-high 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds. “We’re taking really big steps. Hall-Dale’s a good team and it’s nice to take them down.”
The game went Hall-Dale’s way for most of the first quarter. The Bulldogs dominated the boards behind junior Brian Allen, who finished with 15 rebounds and 19 points. It didn’t help that 6-foot-4 sophomore Anthony Owens picked up a second foul in the first minute of play and sat for the rest of the half. But the Ramblers maintained their defensive pressure and it eventually took its toll.
“I’m going to give all the credit to my kids,” Winthrop coach Todd MacArthur said. “We made some adjustments at halftime and they came out and there was a big difference in the way we pressed.”
The Bulldogs committed 13 of their 21 turnovers in the second half as the Ramblers mixed presses effectively, using their man-to-man as their base. Winthrop took the lead for good when Ben Allen converted a layup at the buzzer off a turnover to make it 25-23. Allen finished with 10 points while fellow junior Matt Sekerak added seven points.
“We’ve been playing together since we were young so it’s nice to put it all into action,” Carter said.
With point guard Taylor Morang running the show and the addition of freshman shooter Jacob Hickey, the Ramblers have a well-rounded team that goes eight deep. Hickey finished with 14 points, including nine in the second half. He closed the first quarter with a baseline jumper and 3-pointer from the left side as Winthrop tied the score at 11.
“We run a lot of our special plays for him,” MacArthur said.
The Ramblers gained some separation at the end of the third quarter and again Hickey hit a pair of quick hoops to make it 44-34. Alex McPherson answered with a 3 for the Bulldogs and Taylor Lockhart opened the fourth quarter with a hoop in the lane, but that was it for Hall-Dale, which didn’t score again until the closing seconds. Winthrop spread the floor, controlled the clock and pulled away from the free throw line.
“I think we’re getting better,” MacArthur said. “Every day they come to practice and they work their butts off.”