Maurice Dixon

@WriturRece |

EAST POINT (GA) – Langston Hughes handed Tri-Cities its first region loss of the season earlier this month but the Bulldogs made sure the Panthers didn’t also become the first in-state team to win at The Doghouse.

With four of its five starters scoring in double figures, Tri-Cities (16-5, 12-1) gained control from the start and cruised to an 80-67 victory over rival Langston Hughes (8-11, 6-5) on January 19.

“They’re the two-time defending state champions and we knew the game was going to come down to whoever won the battle of rebounds,” Tri-Cities coach Omari Forts said. “That was our point of emphasis after last game and I think that was the difference in the game today. We were the tougher team today.”

“We just couldn’t guard dribble penetration tonight,” Langston Hughes coach Rory Welsh said. “We had countless blow-bys. Our on-ball defense was just lackluster. From an intensity standpoint, we had some lapses and it definitely came back to bite us. We had several breakdowns but the main one was just guarding the dribble-drive offense and keeping guys in front of us out on the perimeter.”

Demetrius Rives (18 points, 14 rebounds) and Titus Hunter (16 points) reached double digits in the scoring department in the first half, and Peyton Daniels (21) and Da’Marcus Johnson (11 points, five assists, two steals) got there after halftime.

“Peyton Daniels had an exceptional game,” Forts said. “Titus was his consistent self. Demetrius played with consistency the same way he did the first game. I think we got the best point guard in the region in Da’Marcus Johnson and tonight he showed it.”

“I just felt like as long as we do what we do the best way we can do it there is nobody that can beat us,” Rives said. “We love to protect our home court. We love our fans. We feel like we got the best fans in the state and whenever we are in front of them we play our best.”

Patrick Carter, Jr. (21 points) and Tyrel Morgan (18) were the only two Panthers to score in double figures but they both shot the ball from the perimeter well.

“Even though their record doesn’t reflect it this year, they are still capable of beating anybody in the state,” said Forts of Hughes. “Tonight, we were fortunate enough to dominate this particular game but they still have beaten us four out of the last five times.”

In the first quarter, Rives capped a 10-0 run with a three-point play for a 16-5 Bulldogs’ lead. Carter, Jr. ignited an 11-2 surge in favor of Hughes with back-to-back jumpers and a 3-pointer which led to an 18-16 score but Davon Cottle drained a contested 3-pointer from just inside halfcourt as the opening quarter ended.

Hunter, Johnson and Daniels all contributed to the offense in the second  period but Rives had the biggest impact with eight points, including two 3-pointers to result in a 46-35 advantage for Tri-Cities at the break.

“We just focused on the little things like boxing out and not letting their non-factor players score,” Johnson said.

The Bulldogs kept the margin to 10 points or more for the entire second half en route to ending a four-game losing streak to Hughes.

“Nobody in Georgia has beaten us at home so I knew [Hughes] would face a more focused team at home–a more committed team at home,” Forts said.