All that mattered was that the Bulldogs led the game at the buzzer. Thanks to Caleb May making a floater in the lane as time expired that’s exactly what happened.
Now, with the top-ranked team sitting at home, Dora takes on Handley at 5:40 p.m. today in the Central Regional Tournament championship game at Alabama State University with a spot in the Final Four State Tournament on the line.
Against Dallas County, Dora (20-7) trailed by as many as nine points early in the fourth quarter, but the Hornets weren’t able to deliver the knockout blow.
Six different players scored points for Dora in the final quarter, including May who knocked down a pair of 3-pointers as well as the game-winner.
Wednesday’s nightcap pitting Carbon Hill against Handley was in contrast to the up-tempo style of the Dora-Dallas County game.
Carbon Hill scored just two points in the opening quarter against the Tigers. The Bulldogs got as close as two points with 2:51 remaining before losing 53-43. The loss ended Carbon Hill’s shot at a third straight trip to the Final Four.
Dora, which was ousted in the regional by Butler last season, is in the final 8 for the first time since the 2009-10 team reached the Northwest Regional Tournament final.
Dallas County had a massive size advantage over Dora with 6-foot-8 William Lee — who registered a triple-double on Wednesday — as well as a pair of 6-foot-5 starters.
The Bulldogs’ tallest starter is 6-foot-1 Devonta Gosha.
Dora made up for the size differential with a speedy defense that forced 24 turnovers, including a crucial miscue with 40 seconds remaining that led to a pair of DeAngelo Pendleton free throws. The Bulldogs also added 15 steals with six players contributing at least two steals apiece.
Dallas County forced just eight Dora turnovers and made five steals.
Three players scored in double figures led by May’s 17 points. Deionte Smith added 14 and Keleil James put in 13.
The Bulldogs are in the regional tournament for the fourth time in the last five years. Dora advanced to the 4A state championship game in 2009, losing to Anniston. The following season Dora was upset by Columbia in the Northwest Regional Tournament final. After a year away, Dora returned to the Northwest Regional Tournament last season, losing to eventual regional champ Butler in the opening round.
Handley (25-7) has been to the regional tournament each of the last three seasons. Wednesday’s win over Carbon Hill marked the first time during that stretch that the Tigers won their first-round game.
Eventual Class 3A state champ Greensboro eliminated the Tigers from the regional in 2012. Handley moved up to 4A for the start of the 2012-13 school year.
Against Carbon Hill, senior guard Travius Dunson paced the Tigers, scoring more than half of Handley’s points. Dunson connected on 8-of-20 shots from the field and 10-of-16 free throws for 28 points. Semaj Nunn also finished in double-digits with 12 points.