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Suwannee guard Tyrece Freeman drives toward the basket.

LIVE OAK — Even though Suwannee lost to district leader and Class 4A No. 5 Godby last week, the effort was something coach Malcolm Pollock said was “a good sign.”

Godby won 42-41 on Dec. 16, though Suwannee had two chances at the end to win.

Leading by one with eight seconds left, the Cougars missed a free throw that gave the Bulldogs a chance.

Following the miss, Suwannee’s Wesley Jones rebounded and kicked it out to Nick McClain who found an open Tyree Taylor. Taylor’s shot, though, rimmed out and Tyrece Freeman’s tip attempt also rimmed out.

End of game.

“They are undefeated, and I know they are favored to win district,” Pollock said of the Cougars. “They are a powerhouse and one of the best teams in the state, every single year. We’ll have them again in a couple weeks and hopefully in districts.

“If we can compete and execute and limit our turnovers, we had 21 in that game, which is the most we’ve had all year. If we could cut that down to 12 or 14, we’d had a chance to win that game by six or seven. It was a good game though the players and I were heartbroken.”

McClain led the Bulldogs, who fell to 3-4, with 13 points and eight rebounds, while Taylor finished with 10 points. Freeman added nine points for SHS and Jones hauled in 10 rebounds while dishing out four assists.

The Bulldogs led after the first quarter and opened up an eight-point lead in the second. But the Cougars regrouped to tie it at half.

Pollock said he called timeout with less than two minutes until halftime and stressed taking care of the ball.

“‘We can’t be sloppy here, because they’ll eat that 8-point lead up,’” Pollock said he told the Bulldogs in the timeout.

A couple turnovers later and it was 25-all at the intermission.

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SHS coach Malcolm Pollock said the Bulldogs are close to doing great things.

“That’s how they play,” Pollock said. “I’ve played Godby the last two years (while a coach) at Lincoln, so I’m familiar with their coach and strategy and style of play. I didn’t think we were capable of playing at the speed they play, which is really fast. They like to get up and down the court and in your full court; they’re aggressive and are really good at it. Usually teams try to keep pace with them, but they’re going to beat you at that.

“If we could box out and rebound and limit our turnovers, I thought we had a chance.”

Pollock said the Bulldogs were still boxing out and rebounding in the fourth, but it appeared that they were “fatigued.”

Suwannee won’t have time to rest over the holiday break; they’ll be traveling to Panama City to play Rutherford on Thursday and Bay on Friday.

“We’ll stay two nights out there and try and enjoy the time away. This will be two-fold (experience), with ministry and family-orientated type stuff and basketball becomes included with that,” Pollock said. “We watched Florida State play Clemson last week and went to church together the week before that. Trying to do different things together than just going to games. I’m trying to expose them to different experiences.”

The Bulldogs will also experience facing more stiff competition. According to MaxPreps, Bay is 14th in Class 4A, while Rutherford is No. 19. The Bulldogs are 32nd in the classification.

“You’ll see Rutherford in the playoffs, we’ll get a gauge of ourselves real quick,” Pollock said. “Godby is fifth in state, and we were one point away from shaking that ranking up.”

And the Bulldogs are close to being the type of team that Pollock is looking for.

“(We’re on) the tip of something great, but we gotta keep working,” he said while noting it could be better long-term to have some stumbling blocks. “Sometimes it’s better to get close and not quite pull if off. That way you can stay grounded.

“You can see the potential you have and not settle in. I don’t think it would have got to me.”

Jeff Shourds is a sports writer for the Suwannee Democrat, Jasper News and Mayo Free Press.

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