WINTHROP — Winthrop coach Todd MacArthur has made taking care of the basketball a priority since the beginning of the season. On Saturday night, his Ramblers learned a painful lesson on why it is so important.

Winthrop took unbeaten Hall-Dale down to the wire despite turning the ball over 28 times. Any one of those turnovers, including the last one — a Tyler Nadeau steal on the Ramblers’ final possession — may have made the difference in a 49-46 loss in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Winthrop High School.

Nadeau knocked away an inbounding pass to the right corner intended for Jared McLaughlin and into the arms of teammate Jett Boyer as time ran out.

“We were looking to get a 3,” MacArthur said. “It was a battle of two different styles, two good ballclubs, and they’re probably a little more experienced right now.”

It was the second big win this week for the Bulldogs (7-0), who knocked off previously unbeaten Spruce Mountain on Wednesday.

“The Spruce win definitely felt good, but Winthrop has had our number for a couple of years now,” junior Alec Byron said. “To defeat them on their home court, it definitely feels good.”

Winthrop (53 percent) outshot Hall-Dale (43 percent)  but took a dozen fewer shots and six fewer free throws. The Bulldogs harassed Winthrop’s ball-handlers with fullcourt pressure and trapping, double- and triple-teamed Winthrop’s 6-foot-8 junior center Cam Wood (12 points) in the post and had Nadeau shadow McLaughlin (11 points), the Ramblers’ biggest perimeter threat, all over the floor.

“We made it very, very difficult for McLaughlin,” Hall-Dale coach Chris Ranslow said. “He got away one time and buried a three. I think that was his only clean look of the night. Wood’s a load inside… so we tried to guard him with multiple people and mix up looks on him.”

“Anybody that watched that game knows that Hall-Dale has an advantage on the perimeter and we have an advantage on the inside, and our game plan was to bang it inside as much as we can,” MacArthur said. “When we did, we exposed them, and when they had success of the perimeter, they exposed us.”

The Bulldogs jumped out to a 9-2 lead and kept the margin in the five-to-nine-point range for most of the first three quarters. Winthrop (7-2) battled back to tie it early in the fourth when Jevin Smith found Wood on a high-low pass for a layup and Smith converted one of two free throws. 

McLaughlin gave the Ramblers their first lead with a 3-pointer that made it 46-45 with 3:36 left. Neither team scored again until the Bulldogs’ press led to a Nadeau steal and layup with 1:25 left.

“We kind of got exposed on (turnovers) tonight,” MacArthur said. “All we can do is keep addressing it, plug away and keep improving, because we can fix the problem. With 28 turnovers and a one-point lead with one-and-a-half (minutes) to go, if we can fix that, we’ll be all right.”

After a Winthrop miss, the Ramblers sent Byron to the charity stripe with 43 seconds left. He made one of two for a 48-46 Hall-Dale lead.

Out of a timeout, Winthrop’s Sam Figueroa’s 3-point shot from the top of the key bounced high off the back of the rim. Boyer rebounded and got it to Nadeau, who was immediately fouled with 8.3 seconds left.

Nadeau sunk the first then, after a Winthrop time out, missed the second. Winthrop rebounded and got the ball to midcourt before calling another time out to set up its last gasp with 4.6 seconds to go.

Ashtyn Abbott led the Bulldogs with 17 points. 

“We did a good job of boxing out as a team. That was one of our focuses going into the game,” Byron said. “We executed down the stretch. We missed a couple of free throws. But in the end, we played good team defense and I think that’s what gave us the win.”

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