In a season that began with so much buzz, the Dobson boys basketball team was nine and a half minutes away from quietly bowing out of the state tournament Thursday night.
Finally, the No. 13 Mustangs’ star trio got going and the team clamped down defensively for a 63-54 win over No. 20 Highland in the first round at Dobson.
Ryan Richardson had 16 of his 18 points after intermission and Dobson used a 25-4 run between the third and fourth quarters to rally for the victory. Richardson hit three consecutive 3-pointers in that stretch as Dobson erased a 42-36 deficit to go ahead 61-46 with 1:18 remaining and cruised home.
Richardson was 0-for-4 from downtown in the first half as Highland took a six-point lead into intermission.
“I looked at the seniors when we went into the locker room, and I was like, ‘I can’t let them go out like that,’” Richardson said.
Dobson will play at No. 4 Mesa on Saturday night at 7 p.m. The Mustangs were the preseason No. 1 team after adding Richardson and Jaron Hopkins via transfer in the offseason, but it has taken them awhile to jell.
Hopkins had 17 points and eight rebounds in this one and Kodi Justice added 12 points, two steals and two blocks.
The Mustangs only led for 46 seconds in the first half before turning it on late.
“We came out thinking that because we won the first two matchups this third one shouldn’t be that hard,” Richardson said. “They came out more fired up than we did and we cannot come out like that against Mesa.”
Highland star Jake Toolson finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds but only scored four points in the second half, all of which came on technical free throws.
The Dobson defense keyed on him and made the other players score. Bryce Farabee took advantage with nine points in the third quarter and had 21 for the game, but the Hawks had a stretch where they missed 12 straight second-half shots as the Mustangs took control. Dobson was 8-for-10 from the field in the fourth quarter while Highland was just 2-for-15.
“When the momentum turned our way we got going,” Dobson coach Rick McConnell said.