AUGUSTA — There were no jitters, no scuffles, no shaky possessions from the Hall-Dale boys’ basketball team in its Class C South tournament opener.

Just the way the Bulldogs drew it up.

No. 3 Hall-Dale looked every bit the team that rolled through the tournament last year, racing out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter and never looking back en route to an 83-57 quarterfinal win over No. 6 Monmouth Academy at the Augusta Civic Center.

Ashtyn Abbott scored 34 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and Alec Byron had 24 points for the Bulldogs, who improved to 18-1 and who had no interest in letting the underdog Mustangs hang around.

“That’s kind of what we preached. We wanted to get it started and keep it going,” Abbott said. “Especially against a team like this. If they get it going, they’ll roll. We just had to throw the first punch.”

Monmouth finishes the season 13-7. The Mustangs were led by 15 points and 13 rebounds from Connor Davies and 10 from Brock Bates, but coach Wade Morrill said Hall-Dale’s surge — which saw it take a 27-11 lead into the second quarter — forced his team out of its comfort zone early.


“That first quarter really is kind of the difference in the basketball game, in a lot of ways,” Morrill said. “We weren’t able to stick to what we wanted to do. We didn’t want to get caught up in having to play them in a 94-foot game. We wanted to play them in the half-court if we could help it, but when you dig yourself a 16-point deficit in the first quarter, you need some possessions.”

Hall-Dale never trailed, and started clicking early. Four Patrick Rush points helped the Bulldogs to an 8-2 lead, and Byron had six points during a 16-3 run that turned an 11-8 lead into the 27-11 margin.

“Monmouth’s a good club, top to bottom. They’re big, they’re physical, they can shoot it. They’ve got a dynamic point guard,” said Hall-Dale coach Chris Ranslow, who also got seven points and eight rebounds from Tim Cookson. “Fortunately, we knew our opponent, I thought we were well-prepared, and we got off to a good start.”

The Mustangs shot 4-of-20 in the first quarter, and Byron said that was a focus for the team as well.

“Our main focus coming in today was to limit their shooters,” he said. “We knew Connor Davies and Gabe Martin were their two shooters, and we knew if we limited them to 17 points or below, we’d have the advantage.”

The lead swelled to 18 at 32-14 when Monmouth caught life with 3-pointers on four straight shots, two coming from Davies and one apiece coming from Dylan Lajoie (eight points) and Martin (nine). The Mustangs were down 37-26 with 4:08 left in the half, and Morrill said he had faith his team could be rallying back.


“For us, down 15 is not something I don’t think we can come back from,” said Morrill, who also got eight points from Trevor Flanagan. “It’s a game of runs. We’ve been a big-run team all year.”

The hope was short-lived. With the score 39-28, Abbott had a dunk, Byron hit a 3-pointer and Austin Stebbins had a layup, bumping the lead to 46-28.

“They can shoot the lights out,” Abbott said. “I was watching the Cony game the other night, everybody thought they were out of it down 10 points, 11 points, and they came right back. We knew we couldn’t let that happen, especially here.”

The second half was mostly a Hall-Dale highlight. Abbott had eight points and Byron had seven in the third quarter to put the Bulldogs up 65-47, and Abbott had the first eight points of the fourth quarter — the last two coming on a breakaway dunk — to make it 73-49.

“From the time we came out of the gate, we wanted to set the tone and show them that we felt we were the superior team,” Byron said. “When we played them earlier in the year, we were too lackadaisical on full-court defense. … I thought we did a good job today.”

Morrill praised his team, which became the first Monmouth squad to make the C South quarterfinals in five years.

“Our goal coming into this season was (to) be good teammates, and to make it to the Civic Center,” he said. “We accomplished both of those. But here’s the thing: Once you get here, we all get greedy. You want one more.”

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