BEREA -- Madison Southern boys basketball coach Austin Newton did not mince words about his team's close 58-54 loss to Paul Laurence Dunbar on Wednesday.
"We lost a lot of close games this season, but after every loss I've always been able to say we deserve to win because of how hard we played. We dove on the floor and made all the effort plays. Tonight, I can't say that," the coach said after the loss.
Going into the game, the Eagles (12-12) had won two straight, but had to battle through a tough shooting night against the Bulldogs (9-15).
Southern shot 32 percent from the field and 32 percent from three-point range. The Eagles were also just 63 percent from the foul line.
The Bulldogs out-scored the Eagles in every quarter, except the second.
"When we don't make shots, we let that affect the rest of our game. We let it mess with our defense and how we take charges and we don't dive for loose balls. We can't continue to let that affect the way we play the rest of the game," Newton explained.
However, the Eagles were still able to to keep the game close.
The contest featured nine lead changes and seven ties.
The Bulldogs shot 54 percent from the field in the first quarter and the Eagles were only 1-of-8 from three-point range while shooting 31 percent from the field.
Southern trailed 17-10 after the first quarter, but was able to rally in the second.
The Eagles got an offensive spurt and outscored the Bulldogs 16-6 in the second quarter.
Back-to-back three-pointers from Chad Fugate got the Eagles back within one point with 4:42 left till halftime.
The game was tied 23-23 with 41 seconds left to go in the first half, when Hunter Buchanan drained a three-pointer to give Southern a 26-23 lead going into the locker room.
The Eagles shot 60 percent from three-point range in the second quarter and 54.5 percent from the field, while the Bulldogs were only 3-of-13 from the field.
Chad Fugate had 31 points for the game and shot 50 percent (11-of-22) from the field on Wednesday. The senior was 5-of-9 from three-point range and 4-of-4 from the free throw line. He also had five rebounds and a team-high four steals.
Hunter Buchanan had 10 points, including three three-pointers, to go along with five rebounds.
The teams traded baskets in the third quarter, with a three-pointer from Fugate tying the game back up 39-39 going into the final quarter.
Two free throws from Fugate gave the Eagles a one point lead, 47-46, with 4:01 left in regulation.
However, Dunbar answered once more to take the lead for good.
The Bulldogs went on a 10-3 run over the final minutes to take a seven-point lead with 17 seconds left in the game.
A last second three-pointer from Fugate got Southern back within four points as time expired.
Samuel Lee had five points, six rebounds and was 3-of-4 form the foul line. Colby Conrad had a game-best five assists, four points and three steals. Nate Turner had seven rebounds and two points. Jonah Wooten had six rebounds and a point.
The Bulldogs out-rebounded the Eagles 47-39 and racked up 13 steals and 10 assists.
Dunbar shot 33.9 percent from the field on Wednesday, 43.8 percent from beyond the arc and 56.3 percent from the foul line.
The Bulldogs also turned 17 Southern turnovers into 12 points, in addition to getting 15 second-chance points and 10 bench points.
Dunbar also had eight blocks.
"We just weren't Madison Southern tonight," Newton said.
The Eagles will look to bounce back when they take on Clinton County next in Albany on Friday.