WHITE CASTLE — What a difference a week made for Southern Lab. Heroics by Dexter Dennis and Brenden Vessel certainly helped.
Dennis hit the game-tying shot with 23 seconds remaining and Vessel drained a basket at the buzzer to give Southern Lab a 49-47 victory over White Castle in a District 6-1A boys basketball game played Friday night at WCHS.
Southern Lab coach Devan Clark smiled as a pondered the differences between a blowout loss to Class 2A power Madison Prep last Saturday and the come-from-behind win.
“Last week we wouldn’t have won this game,” Clark said. “We’ve had a tendency to hang our heads when we get behind. All we’ve talked about this week was fighting to the end.
“And we finally did that.”
Dennis had 12 points and Vessel added 11 for the Kittens (13-6, 3-0). Jatyre Carter led White Castle (10-7, 2-1) with a game-high 18 points.
Southern Lab also beat WCHS 45-41 in the girls game.
The Bulldogs scored 19 third-quarter points to take a 39-35 lead. Coach Troy Green’s team was making all the right moves.
The 6-foot-5 Carter used his soft touch around the goal to bank a putback off the glass with 1:38 remaining.
That basket gave WCHS a 46-40 lead. Southern Lab stormed back to score nine of the final 10 points.
The Bulldogs missed the front end of two one-and-ones and another free throw down the stretch. White Castle finished 6-for-17 at the line for the game.
“Free throws can win a game for you or lose it,” WCHS coach Troy Green said. “Tonight we missed some free throws that were crucial.
“Give (Southern Lab) credit they never gave up.”
The game was tied at 12-12 after one quarter and Southern Lab led 24-20 at the half.
Carter played a key role as the Bulldogs pulled away in the third quarter.
Dennis and Vessel said they never stopped believing the Kittens could come back.
Dennis was originally supposed to take the final shot on a backdoor cut. When the White Castle defense took that option away, Vessel made his play.
“I knew I had to make a play, so I took it (game-winning shot),” Vessel said.
SOUTHERN LAB 45, WHITE CASTLE 41: The Kittens (16-3, 4-0) led by one point at halftime and extended their lead to 10 points in the third quarter.
But a 32-22 lead proved to be anything but safe. Ashante Knight scored 10 fourth-quarter points to get WCHS (6-12, 3-1) back into it.
Two free throws by Brooklyn Falcon cut the SLHS lead to 38-37 with 3:39 remaining. A free throw by Jackeyla Washington got the Bulldogs with one again at 42-41 at the 1:16 mark.
“When you play an opponent like White Castle that is never going to quit, it’s important to play the best game possible,” Southern Lab coach Henry Combs said. “We didn’t play our best all the way through. They had something to do with it. We did enough to get it done.
Cailain Williams, who finished with a game-high 21 points for the Southern Lab, grabbed a missed shot in the final seconds and then sank two free throws with 1.6 seconds remaining to clinch the win.
Knight finished with 17 points for White Castle. Falcon added 11.
“My teammates look to me to be a leader,” Williams said. “I’ve got to make shots and plays.”