BURLINGTON — Despite battling back within two points two separate times, a 17-8 first quarter deficit proved too much for Person to fully overcome during Tuesday night’s 59-54 conference loss at Williams.
Person (14-3, 4-2) wraps up the first half of the Central Conference slate at 4-2 and in a three-way tie with Orange and Williams. Each of the three lost to league leader Northwood and split games against each other.
“I thought we started the game out kind of flat, energy-wise,” Person head coach Charles Dacus said. “We dug a hole and got down by nine at the end of the first quarter. I thought overall, we did a fairly good job of battling back.”
Dacus mentioned how the Rockets lost the battle on the boards in the opening frame, giving up offensive rebounds that led to nine first-quarter points for the Bulldogs. Person rebounded better over the next three quarters, but Williams continued to attack the paint and find success.
The Rockets fought hard to rip off a quick 8-0 run late in the second quarter to trim their deficit down to 25-23, but the Bulldogs answered with a 5-0 spurt of their own to lead 30-23 at halftime.
“If we played with the same intensity we played with in the second quarter to the end of the game and at the start, I think it could’ve been a different outcome,” Dacus said.
Williams stretched its lead to 40-29 at the 3:21 mark in the third quarter and led by eight at 47-39 heading into the fourth.
But the Rockets dug in once again, kept enough possessions alive and forced enough stops to give themselves a chance in the final minute.
Coming out of a timeout with 1:32 left in the game, Person sophomore wing Lance Clarke drilled a clutch three to cut the deficit in half at 56-52. After a couple of missed free throws on the other end from the Bulldogs, Person sophomore guard Quantae Bowman drove hard to the basket and finished through contact to draw the and-one. The free throw wouldn’t fall, but the Rockets suddenly trailed 56-54 with just under a minute remaining.
Williams scored the last three points of the game to ice the 59-54 win and earn their sixth straight victory.
“I’m very, very proud,” Williams head coach Tommy Cole said. “They were 14-2 and you’ve got to have a very good squad if you’re 14-2.”
Clarke and senior wing Julian Crawley paced the Rockets with 15 points apiece. Dacus was pleased with Crawley’s contributions after missing time due to sickness.
“He’s a four-year varsity player so that’s kind of the stuff we expect from him,” Dacus said. “I think he was a little fatigued because of his sickness and not being able to practice, but he did a good job for us coming off the bench.”
Person will look to bounce back at Cedar Ridge on Friday for the final game of a three-game road stretch. The Rockets knocked off the Red Wolves, 66-31, on Dec. 9 in Roxboro.
“Cedar Ridge has obviously been getting better as the year goes on; you can tell it,” Dacus said. “They recently beat Western (Alamance) and their scores are getting closer and closer, so they’re battling. They were scrappy when we played them in December, so we’re going to have to be ready to play.”