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BASKETBALL: Model’s boys wrap up Big Blue Classic showing improvement on boards

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A pair of close losses is in the books as the Model Blue Devils’ final games of 2017, but coach Jacob Travis is interested in how they will influence his team’s progress in 2018.

Model brought the Big Blue Classic basketball tournament to a close Saturday evening with a game against Dalton, a Class 6A program with some height and athleticism that came alive in the second half to edge out a 53-50 win.

Despite a Blue Devil first half that put them ahead 34-21 at the break, the Catamounts turned on the pressure in the third quarter and got hot on the perimeter to outscore Model 18-8 in the period.

A 9-2 run in the fourth gave Dalton (9-4) its first lead of the game with 2:25 left to play before a pair of 3-pointers put them up 53-50 with 50 seconds on the clock. Model tried to get control in the last minute but wasn’t able to get back to the basket.

“Their pressure extended and with two or three plays at the end of the game, we’ve got to learn how to win that game. But we’re playing better all the way around,” Travis said. “We’re getting a lot better. We played extremely well, and we were afraid Dalton would wake up.”

Model (4-8) lost to 4A North Oconee 53-52 on Friday, and Travis said playing against larger schools and tougher opponents in the last two weeks has helped them.

“We’ve grown a lot. I think we’ve cleaned up a lot of little areas and sharpened the axe, as they say, in a lot of other areas,” Travis said. “We’ve just got to find a way to win that one at the end, and I think we will.”

The Blue Devils caught fire in the first period, with Justin Roberts taking control of the boards to spark a 13-2 run to open the game. Model stayed out in front through the second and punctuated the first half with a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Jackson Mathis.

Roberts led a trio of Blue Devils in double digits with 14 points. Jackson Lively finished with 13 and Josh Smith had 12, including a pair of 3’s.

Jalen Westfield became Dalton’s spark in the second half as he hit three treys in a row during a 13-0 run in the third period. He finished with 18 points, all from behind the arc.

Only 15 free throws were attempted in the game, with Model hitting all four of its share. Lively and Roberts each hit two in the second period.

Model will be back in action Friday at Rockmart.