The Bulldogs trailed by as many as five points in the fourth quarter before rallying in the final seconds.
The Flagler Palm Coast Bulldogs basketball team might be young, but the players got a dose of late-game drama Tuesday night against district foe Mandarin.
The Bulldogs managed to erase a five-point deficit late in the fourth quarter, and Tyler Hopkins’ layup with 1.3 seconds left on the clock sealed the Bulldogs’ first district win of the season, beating Mandarin, 60-59, in front of a loud FPC crowd.
The Bulldogs are off to a 2-0 start, and are 1-0 in the district. (The Bulldogs hosted state-ranked Father Lopez Wednesday night, but the score was too late to print.)
With about 18 seconds left in the game Tuesday night, Willie Gardner drove hard to the basket and laid the ball in and drew the foul. He converted the free throw.
Following a timeout, Mandarin nailed a 3-pointer with nine seconds on the clock.
FPC coach Gary McDaniel then called a timeout to dial up the play that would give his young Bulldogs a chance to win the game.
The play called was to get the ball in the hands of either freshman Malik Maitland or Hopkins.
“We wanted to push the ball past half court and see what was available,” McDaniel said after the game.
Hopkins managed to go the entire distance of the court in about 7 seconds, took one stutter step, and drove hard into the paint, laying the ball up and in with 1.3 left on the clock.
Mandarin heaved a full-court shot at the buzzer, but it was no good.
“We’re still a young team,” McDaniel said, smiling.
The Bulldogs started slow in their first two games of the season, something McDaniel knew his team couldn’t do against Mandarin.
The Bulldogs got off to a fast start, outscoring Mandarin 23-12 in the first quarter. But in the third quarter, Mandarin began its comeback, outscoring FPC, 21-11.
“We made one last push,” McDaniel said.
Maitland led the Bulldogs in scoring Tuesday night for the third straight game, tallying 18 points. Hopkins had 13, Willie Gardner had eight and Chris Lubin had seven points.
After the game, Hopkins said the final play went exactly how he envisioned it.
“The goal was to get the ball to the basket,” Hopkins said. “It was an intense game, and we had to play smart (toward the end),” he said.