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Warriors upset top-ranked Hobgood

MERRY HILL – It was a game they needed.

Lawrence Academy’s varsity boys have been learning a new system all year – sometimes well and sometimes struggling to grasp the concepts preached by first-year coach Jon Powell.

It all came together Tuesday night, however, as the Warriors upset Hobgood Academy, the number one team in the Tarheel Independent Conference who came in with a spotless 8-0 record in the league.

“It’s huge,” Powell said. “Anytime you have a new coach and he comes in and transforms everything you do – and that’s what happened here – you need a win like this to signify that you are getting there. The Rocky Mount win was one for us and this is certainly one.”

The Warriors got out of the gate quickly as Dylan Ralph buried back-to-back three-pointers in the opening minutes to stake Lawrence to a 6-2 lead. The home team pushed the advantage to 8-2 on a bucket by Daniel Oliver, but Hobgood rallied to get within 8-7 by the end of the quarter.

Thomas McDowell buried a triple and Gray Smith hit two from the free throw line for the Raiders.

Lawrence responded in the second quarter with Oliver scoring in the low post and then Shane Stevens burying a triple to make it 13-7, but again the Raiders stormed back and were within one (14-13) at the intermission.

The strategic chess match between Powell and veteran Raiders’ skipper Joe McDowell continued in the second half with each coach maneuvering a system or a player to try to get the upper hand.

Lawrence led 18-15 early in the half after Oliver hit two free throws, but Thomas McDowell tied the score on a three-pointer at the 5:05 mark of the quarter.

Chase Stevens hit two from the charity stripe to edge the Warriors back into the lead, but McDowell again hit from three-point range to make it 21-20, giving the Raiders only their second lead of the game. The shot also sparked a 10-0 spurt for Hobgood that gave them a 28-20 lead at the 1:40 mark of the third quarter.

Holden Ratzlaff scored for the Warriors with 39 ticks left on the third quarter clock and then Oliver made two from the free throw line to trim the deficit to 28-24.

Dusty Knox put the Raiders up by six with 16 seconds to play, but Shane Stevens hit 1-of-2 from the line to make it 30-25 at the end of the third quarter.

With the Warriors rallying, it was again Ralph that hit a big shot, burying a three-pointer at the 3:43 mark to make it 33-32 in favor of the Warriors.

Lawrence never trailed again as Oliver scored four points down the stretch, Chase Stevens had two and Shane Stevens had one as they pulled out the nine-point win.

“Dylan has the ability to knock down the type of shots he hit tonight,” Powell said. “When he is set, gets open and takes those shots in the flow of the game, he’s well within his range.”

Powell was also pleased with the Warrior defense.

“”Our defense started slowly, but it’s coming around slowly but surely,” he said. “We played more man-to-man tonight than at any time this year and I thought we did our best job communicating.”

The win boosted the Warriors to 5-4 in the TIC and 13-9 overall while dropping Hobgood to 15-4 and 8-1.

Lawrence travels to Oakwood School tonight before hosting Pungo Christian Academy Friday.