Dixon gaining momentum en route to the Iberia tournament championship
Heading into the Iberia tournament Dixon was 3-6 and they were handed the seventh seed (out of eight).
After Wednesday's 72-56 semifinal win over the Tuscumbia Lions, Dixon has beaten the second (Belle) and sixth seeds in the tournament.
The Bulldogs wasted no time getting their offense started in the first quarter against the Lions.
Shots were raining down from all over, but the first quarter buzzer put a stop to it. That didn't reverse the damage though, as Dixon was up 21-6.
In between quarters though, someone flipped a switch and Tuscumbia pulled things closer.
The Lions went on a 9-0 run towards the end of the second with two free throws from Dixon junior Korey Burrow breaking up the run.
At halftime the score was 34-28 with the Bulldogs still holding the advantage.
Burrow opened up scoring for the third quarter after hitting a layup and a 3-pointer from the right wing.
Then Burrow answered a couple of Lions' buckets with a hop step jumper in the key with 4:15 left on the third quarter clock to bring the score to 41-35.
Players from both teams started to get into foul trouble, including Dixon's junior Josh Parker when he picked up his fourth foul on a hack trying to defend a layup.
Dixon Head Coach Mike Phillips said he had planned on taking the good with the bad using his fast-paced offense and press defense.
"I think when you play fast you create a lot of fouls and make a lot of fouls," Phillips said. "That's why we haven't played fast much this year, because we don't have a lot of depth on our bench. But (Tuscumbia) only has six guys they like to play normally. So I thought we should run and if we get into our bench, our guys are raw, but they've all played. I haven't seen some of (Tuscumbia's Head Coach Bill Blanton) guys play all year."
So, Phillips told his guys to run the Lions out of the gym.
After Tuscumbia made their and-one after the Parker foul and split free throws at 2:29 left in the quarter, the game was tide at 41.
Dixon freshman Marquis Gantt picked things back up for his team with a layup, but the Lions were able to answer and tie the game up again.
That's when junior Hayden Yoakum caught fire for a little bit.
Yoakum made a jumper from the right elbow, then nailed a 3-pointer from the right wing and, after a foul, hit Gantt with an inbounds pass for the quick and easy layup on the right board.
After that set of plays, the Bulldogs had the 50-43 lead heading into the final quarter of play.
Phillips said Yoakum's extra work seemed to pay off in the semifinal game.
"Hayden stayed two hours after practice last night and shot with a friend of his," Phillips said. "I've got two more guys that I play too that, if they get hot, I feel like they can make a lot of shots. When we play Iberia in the championship we will have to hit a few more and have everybody score a little bit because they do a good job of taking away your number one shooter and number two shooter."
One of those guys Phillips was talking about getting hot and scoring a high percentage of shots has to be Burrow, because he started to really shine in the fourth quarter.
After the Lions opened up the fourth with a layup, he drained a right wing three and a straightaway 3-pointer to pad Dixon's lead.
Yoakum came back with a steal on the ensuing inbounds and hit his right-handed layup and, in a blink of the eye, the score was 58-47.
A few minutes later Burrow started back up, but it wasn't his shots from downtown keeping his team on top, it was the often overlooked free throws making the difference.
With 2:11 remaining in the game he hit both of his free throws to give the Bulldogs a 66-50 lead. Then, about a minute later, he hit two more to give them an 18-point lead.
Tuscumbia meanwhile, couldn't find the bottom of the net with their free throws, or any other shot for that matter. They would sink two shots in between Burrow's trips to the line.
With 9.6 seconds left he made his last two of the game.
Burrow finished 9-10 on his free throws, five coming in the fourth quarter. He says all it takes is practice to be good at the easy ones.
"The more free throws you shoot in practice the more you make in the game," Burrow said. "There's nothing better than practice. Putting up more reps will get you more makes in the game."
Coach Phillips said Burrow is one of the best he's got at hitting the shots from the charity stripe.
"We've got a drill we play in practice called man of the mountain and one basket has the champions on it and you go down from there. Every time you lose you go down one basket and every time you win you go up one. He's always been at the championship basket. He's only been beaten once and he came right back. He did what he was supposed to do tonight and went for the ball at the end. He knew they would foul him and he took advantage of those fouls and made his free throws."
The Lions hit a layup at the buzzer to bring the final score to 72-56.
Dixon made 10 3-pointers in the game with Yoakum accounting for five while Burrow had four.
Burrow said he and Yoakum feel like they have to step their games up for their team since they're the only returning starters from last season for the Bulldogs.
"We're really the only guys who got time last season too," Burrow said. "So we're trying to lead the team and get the shots that come to us. We want to make the easy ones and make some of the hard ones hopefully."
Free throws had a significant impact on the game.
Tuscumbia missed a ton, including several on the front end of one-and-ones.
For the game, they were 11-25.
The Bulldogs made 16-24.
Dixon (5-6, 1-0) will go on to face the Iberia Rangers in the tournament championship.
"We've got nothing to lose in that game," Phillips said. "They're real good and state ranked and they deserve everything they've got. We're just going to go in and play. If we can hit some shots and make them stress a little bit, we've done our job."
Burrow said if nothing else, this Iberia tournament has given his team a lot to feel good about lately.
"We had a losing record coming in, but now we have a lot of momentum on our side and we're feeling good going into this championship game. We think we can at least play with them, winning might be a stretch, but we can at least play with them."