The 2018 Georgetown Kraft Credit Union Bulldog Shootout at Georgetown High School was a roller coaster ride for the host team. The Bulldogs varsity basketball team opened the tournament and season Nov. 16 with a 62-53 win over Philip Simmons.

The Bulldogs then lost 54-44 to Conway Nov. 19, the eventual tournament champions. After trailing 24-17 at halftime, the Bulldogs scored just six third quarter points and allowed Conway to open up a 19-point lead by the end of the third quarter.

Georgetown rebounded and cut the lead to 10 in the fourth quarter, but Conway prevailed.

“We have to have a better understanding of certain situations in a game,” Georgetown head coach Mike Ford said after the game.

In the third place game Nov. 20, Georgetown opened up an 11-point lead in the first quarter against Johnsonville and led by 21 points midway through the second quarter.

Johnsonville battled back to cut the halftime score to 39-28 and eventually cut the Bulldog lead to 52-49 in the fourth quarter. Georgetown would survive, however, knocking down free throws at the end to seal the 64-58 victory.

“Johnsonville is a battle-tested team and is one of the toughest regions in 2A,” head coach Mike Ford said. “We aren’t that type of team that can take our foot off the gas.”

Jalan Logan scored 20 points and dished out five assists against the Flashes while freshman forward Isaiah Howell scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in his first varsity start.

“It was great,” Howell said. “I put together a lot of good minutes.”

Howell and junior point guard Darrell Gardner were selected to the all-tournament team. During the tournament, Gardner scored 16 ppg, including a 21-point game against Philip Simmons and an 18-point performance against Conway.

Howell continued his strong start to the season Nov. 27 with a 16-point, 10-rebound performance in a 60-37 win over Carvers Bay. Jerry Dorsey added 16 points and three rebounds and Gardner scored 10 points and dished out three assists. The Bulldogs improved their record to 3-1.

Starting the season with a winning record is huge for this team, Gardner said.

“It very big. It boosts our confidence heading into the season,” he said. “I think we are a special team and capable of doing big things.”

Last season, the Bulldogs were 10-15 and made the SCHSL playoffs with a 5-5 region record. As a four-seed, Georgetown upset one-seeded Swansea 58-57 in the first round of the playoffs. Their run would be short-lived, however, losing to Wade Hampton 57-40 in the second round.

“Last year the goal was to make the playoffs,” Ford said. “I thought that brought some energy to the town and the program and to the kids. The goal was to get the doubt cloud away from the program. The doubt cloud is gone and now it’s time to make noise and let people know Georgetown is real.”

Georgetown graduated leading scorer Darius McGirt from last year’s squad. McGirt scored 14.1 ppg last season, the only Bulldog to score over 10 ppg last season.

The Bulldogs returners this season include forward Dorsey, who averaged 9.6 ppg and Gardner, who scored 8.9 ppg. Senior center Derrick Grant also returns after grabbing 5.6 rebounds per game his junior season.

“We have a lot of basketball heads this season. I like this team this season,” Ford said. “We have a lot of guys who have been around basketball.”

Ford said he is expecting Gardner to be the leader of the offense this season. Gardner has the ability to get to the rim and knock down a couple of threes, but Ford is hoping he can pass on his knowledge of the game to other members of the team.

“He played a lot of real basketball with top level competition. He knows the game and is very composed. His composure and his understanding of the game are big things that I’m looking for him to pass on to some of these guys,” Ford said.

Grant has one of the best ceilings of any player on the roster, according to Ford. Ford said he would like to see him push through mistakes.

“Sometimes it’s a mental thing for him. If he misses a shot or two he gets frustrated,” Ford said. “He’s very hard on himself.”

Howell is also expected to be a major contributor as a freshman. Howell is 6-foot-5 and can run the floor and shoot. During warm-ups, Howell was also dunking with relative ease in the layup lines.

Against Johnsonville, the announcer yelled, “Freshman phenom” each time Howell would score.

“I’ve seen a lot of potential to the point where he doesn’t realize where his game can get if he puts in the work,” Ford said. “He has to get in that weight room but that will come. I’m expecting him to grow as the season goes along.”

The Bulldogs continue their season Nov. 30 with a road game against Andrews.