CARTHAGE — Marcus Bowman wanted it for his team and the Carthage Bulldogs boy’s basketball team wanted it just as bad — that first victory.

Bowman and the Bulldogs, who started their season later than probably any team in the state, have been playing catch up and throwing everything at the wall to figure out if they can find something that stuck.

After suffering back-to-back losses to start the year, the Bulldogs found the winners column.

Senior Viencint Cabada scored a game-high 19 points as Carthage defeated visiting Henderson 58-33 in a District 17-4A game on Friday.

“We played hard the whole game,” Bowman said. “We were kind of cold in the first half, but we had all the looks we wanted and at halftime I told them, just be more aggressive and push the ball. I run y’all in practice every day, so just push the ball.”

Mikel Fields, who came off the bench and scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half, added six rebounds while Kade Bishop and Cason Bishop both scored eight points for Carthage.

Carthage and Henderson both started game rather slowly; the ‘Dawgs led the Lions 10-7 after the opening quarter.

Henderson — who was playing in their 22nd game as opposed to Carthage, who was playing their third of the season — looked prime to go into the half with a lead.

Then Cabada knocked down a deep 3-pointer and was fouled with 0.7 left. The senior knocked down the free throw to give Carthage a 17-16 halftime lead over Henderson.

“We still have a lot of things to work on, but I think the pick-and-roll was there a little bit,” Cabada said. “I was just more aggressive since I’m the point guard and all, but I have to give credit to my teammates for making shots, especially Cason Bishop.”

In the second half, Carthage came out and played like an actual team and not one with less than two handfuls of practice since the end of football season.

The ‘Dawgs scored more points in the third (22) then they did in the entire first half combined.

“Third quarter, we were aggressive and pushed the ball,” Bowman said. “That’s when we went on a run. I’m very pleased with it, but as a coach there’s always some stuff we can work on.”

Bowman mentioned the day prior to facing Henderson was the first time he had all of his players available to practice.

The first-year coach has a roster of 13 players, including 10 that were members of the 4A Division II state championship football team who’s season didn’t end until Dec. 16.

Even with such little practice time and just two games under the belt coming into the game, Carthage made it a long night for Henderson.

The Lions, who came into the game off a 42-31 home loss to Kilgore in their district opener, only trailed the ‘Dawgs 39-31 after three.

Then Carthage opened up the floodgates and locked Henderson down as the ‘Dawgs outscored the Lions 19-2 in the fourth quarter.

“A shout out to Coach Bowman, he really pushed us to work harder,” Fields said. “We all came together as a team.”

Fields, a junior forward, admitted to not being anywhere close to basketball shape heading into the game and said his team needed that second half spark and he was happy to provide it.

“I saw that my team needed me so I had to show out,” Fields said of scoring 11 of his 13 points in the second half. “I’m not even in basketball shape yet. We all worked hard.”

Cabada, who was a role player on last year’s team, has stepped up into the point guard role for the team this season and said Carthage was determined coming into the game.

“I didn’t want to come home and lose again,” Cabada said. “I think it’s just all the hard work and practice we’ve been doing. We try not to use the excuse of coming straight from football into basketball; I wanted this one pretty bad.

“It was my mom’s first game coming out in like four years, so it felt pretty good, honestly.”

Carthage, who didn’t even get one full practice in before beginning District 17-4A play, fell to Spring Hill at home and Gilmer on the road before defeating Henderson.

LaKelton Freeney scored eight points to lead the Lions, Avi Patel scored seven, Jordan Ross six, and Van Landon scored five with nine rebounds and four steals.

Getting that first win isn’t always easy, but for Bowman it was a memorable one.

“This victory was very big,” he said. “They answered the call and I’m proud of them. We have to work two times as hard as other teams because we are behind the eight ball. They are working and we’ll keep working.”

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Ryan Silapan joined the Panola Watchman in May of 2021 after previous stints with the Sequoyah County Times, Prep2Prep.com and the Santa Cruz Sentinel. He's in his 11th year as a sports writer and in his free time enjoys golf and watching pro wrestling.