"Sluggish" would be one way to describe Paul Laurence Dunbar's slow start against Boyle County in boys' basketball Tuesday night.
Dunbar Coach Scott Chalk was more creative with his vocabulary when asked why his team fell behind by 13 points in the first 10 minutes.
"We looked soggy," he said. "We looked like we were walking in mud."
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Chalk expected it, considering the Bulldogs weren't allowed to practice Monday because school was out for Martin Luther King Day.
"Once we woke up and got into it a little, our effort picked up and things started clicking for us," he said.
Dunbar, led by Darius Williams' 26 points and Taveion Hollingsworth's 24, wound up winning 77-69. It was the Bulldogs' seventh victory in their last 11 games after starting the season 0-8.
Boyle County figured to be a tough test.
The Rebels, one of the top teams in the 12th Region, have a potent scoring duo of their own in Jeremiah Bell and Hagen Tyler.
Bell, a 6-foot senior averaging 21 points, was unstoppable going to the rim in the first half and had 20 points. He was fairly quiet in the second half until he hit a couple of late threes. He finished with 32 points.
Tyler, a 6-1 senior who's also averaging 21 points, had 24 against Dunbar.
Boyle County didn't have 6-6 junior Colton Elkins, who is out with a hip injury.
Williams was coming off a career-high 40-point performance in an 85-84 loss to Wayne County on Saturday. He was razor-sharp in that game, hitting 14 of 20 shots.
The 6-4 junior didn't have his usual touch against Boyle County. He was 10-for-25 from the field but still topped his 24-point average.
Hollingsworth, a 6-2 sophomore who's averaging 19 points, had 17 in the second half, including 9-for-10 free-throw shooting.
"I never worry about those two finding ways to score," Chalk said.
Williams said he and Hollingsworth "feed off each other." And when his shot isn't falling, he makes up for it by hammering the boards.
Junior point guard Jordan Lewis had six points and rebounded well Tuesday night. Junior guard Justin Kelley had eight points off the bench.
Williams sees Dunbar rounding into form, a month out from the postseason.
"We've come a long way," he said. "We're starting to get everybody healthy and we're starting to show what we're really capable of."
The Bulldogs are just now getting all three of their post players back, and all three — 6-4 Jeremy Ward, 6-5 Jacob Herrin and 6-4 Dontell Brown — had their moments against Boyle County, especially on defense and on the boards.
"It's nice to finally have all three of them," Chalk said,. "We've got a little rotation with our bigs now, so we do a few things in there."
The Bulldogs have made major strides mentally, too.
"The big thing is they're starting to believe they can be who they thought they'd be at the beginning of the season," Chalk said. "When things aren't going well and you feel bad about it, it's hard to get the right attitude and to play with a lot of effort.
"We're finally starting to feel good about things."
Paul Dunbar 77, Boyle County 69
Boyle County (14-5) — Bell 32, Tyler 24, Bean 6, Robbins 5, Leigh 2.
Paul Dunbar (7-12) — Williams 26, Hollingsworth 24, Lewis 6, Ward 4, Kelley 8, Clark 3, D,Brown 4, J.Brown 2.
Boyle County 21 15 14 19—69
Paul Dunbar 16 21 16 24—77