With only two team members having previous varsity experience, the Howe Bulldogs are going through a steep learning curve in the early games of the 2013-14 season.
The Bulldogs are mainly lacking in the experience of finishing games, and that was apparent in their 64-57 loss to Celina in the opening round of the Aubrey Tournament.
Pushed back a couple of hours due to the weather, Howe faced the Bobcats Dec. 12 in the first game of the tourney and could never gain the lead after tying the contest on several occasions.
Easton Ross had a pair of 3-pointers in the first half, his second giving Howe a 17-14 lead. A three-pointer by Nick Wilson kept the Bulldog lead at three before Celina made a comeback.
With the game tied at 27-27, Celina went on a 4-0 run to close out the half, taking a lead it would never relinquish.
After another three by Ross opened the second half, Celina went on a 6-0 run, building its lead to eight by the end of the third quarter.
Michael Kehrer was four-for-four from the free-throw line in the period and his late basket, and another by John Jacob Talley, kept the Bulldog in striking distance as the final period began.
Lloyd Spotts scored to open the period and two baskets by Ross, one after his steal at the defensive end, got Howe close, but they could never get over the hump.
Kehrer had five points late in the game, finishing with 16 as the Bulldogs absorbed the seven-point loss.
Byron Nelson 56, Howe 41
After battling Byron Nelson High School almost evenly through the first half, the Bulldogs gave up an 18-5 run to the Bobcats in the third quarter in a frustrating 56-41 loss.
Howe trailed 25-24 at the break, but came out cold for the third quarter. That lack of focus was the difference in the game.
John Jacob Talley scored nine points and Griffin Underwood added eight while Brice Harvey chipped in four points and nine rebounds.
Howe 66, Krum 41
After losing to Byron Nelson High School in the second round, Howe bounced back with a 66-41 win over Krum the following Friday.
Michael Kehrer lead the Bulldogs with 18 points, and John Jacob Talley added 17 as Howe was in command throughout the contest.
Easton Ross added seven points and Levi Mrozinski chipped in five as Howe won its second game of the 2013-14 campaign.
Gainesville 57, Howe 51
That failure to finish reared its ugly head in the tournament finale as the Bulldogs dropped a 57-51 decision to Gainesville on Saturday.
John Jacob Talley lead the way with 21 points and Brice Harvey had 13, but a fourth-quarter swoon kept the Bulldogs out of the win column. Howe was outscored 14-9 in the final eight.
Easton Ross and Griffin Underwood each had seven points and Nick Wilson added three as Howe wrapped up the non-district portion of the schedule.
Bulldogs 60, Rams 40
After struggling through a 2-10 non-district season, the Howe Bulldogs opened District 11-2A play with a 60-40 win over S&S on Dec. 17 in Howe.
Junior guard Easton Ross had his best scoring night of the season, posting 18 in the league opener for both teams. Sophomore Griffin Underwood added nine points, while Nick Wilson and John Jacob Talley each chipped in seven.
Howe (6-4, 3-0) travels to Tom Bean Friday to face the TomCats, who are coming off of a 72-46 win over Bells.
S&S 6 11 12 11 — 40
Howe 17 16 19 8 — 60
H: Easton Ross 18, Griffin Underwood 9, Nick Wilson 7, John Jacob Talley 7, Levi Mrozinski 6, Brice Harvey 5, Michael Kehrer 5, Lloyd Spotts 2, Caleb Ake 1.