Coming off an impressive 77-75 win over eighth ranked Brentwood, the Marshall County Tigers (1-1) were unable to knock off their second Class AAA opponent in three days, as they dropped a hard fought 82-73 decision to the Lebanon Blue Devils at home Thursday night.
After the two teams battled to a 44-44 tie at halftime, Lebanon opened up a seven-point lead early in the fourth period when MCHS sophomore forward Kedren Johnson was forced to the bench due to foul trouble early in the second half. The Tigers then fought back and cut the deficit to one twice, but the Blue Devils fended off the MCHS rally with some clutch foul shooting down the stretch to claim the nine-point victory.
Although Marshall County scored several lay ups against Lebanon's unrelenting full court press and shot 47 percent from the field overall (27-58), the Tigers committed 27 turnovers and missed 21 of 29 attempts from three-point range.
"Their pressure got to us and some foul trouble in key spots was tough to overcome," said MCHS head coach Jason Tigert. "That's what Lebanon's known for and they did a heck of a job of running their press tonight. It's tough to mirror their speed and quickness in practice."
The Tigers, meanwhile, had success pressing the Blue Devils in the fourth quarter and forced 25 turnovers overall, but Lebanon still tallied 31 field goals on 47 percent shooting and grabbed 16 offensive rebounds, while finishing with a 37-27 edge on the boards.
"Maybe that's something we'll do more of when we get Corey Duvall back. It's tough to press someone the entire game with only a seven-man rotation," said Tigert
Despite sitting out much of the third quarter, Johnson led the Tigers with a game high 22 points on 9 of 15 shooting to go along with eight rebounds, two assists, two steals, and one blocked shot.
Blaise Spencer also tallied 15 points for Marshall County on five three-pointers, while Brandon Burns had 14 points, five rebounds, two assists, two steals, and a blocked shot.
Cameron McCullough and Hunter Osborne each added nine points as well and dished out six and four assists respectively. Dominic Matthews rounded out the scoring for MCHS with four points.
The Blue Devils had ten different players score in the contest and were paced by point guard Xavier Smith with 21 points. Forward Casey Nunley also tallied 18 points, nine rebounds, and four steals for Lebanon, while Robert Crudup, Jacob Thigpen, and Ryan Beadle had 12, nine, and eight points respectively.
The lead swapped hands several times in the first quarter before the Tigers ended the stanza with a 24-21 advantage on the strength of six points from Johnson and two three-pointers each from Spencer and Burns.
Lebanon then outscored Marshall County 12-6 through the first three and a half minutes of the second period to claim a 33-30 lead, but MCHS countered with a 14-7 spurt thanks to five points apiece from Johnson and McCullough.
After the Blue Devils tallied the final four points of the first half to knot the game at 44-44, Burns sandwiched two baskets around a pair of Spencer three-pointers to help give the Tigers a 54-50 advantage midway through the third quarter.
Lebanon though soon exploited Johnson's absence and put together a 16-5 run to seize a 66-59 lead with 7:38 lead left in the fourth period.
Marshall County cut the deficit to 69-68 with the help of three field goals from Johnson and an Osborne three-pointer, before the Blue Devils notched the next five points to open up a 74-68 advantage midway through the quarter.
The Tigers hit five of six free throws to close the gap to 74-73 with 1:36 remaining, and had a chance to pull ahead after a Lebanon turnover, but Crudup stole the in bounds pass at mid court and scored on a lay up to give Lebanon a 76-73 lead.
Marshall County then failed to score the rest of the way, while the Blue Devils knocked down six foul shots in the final thirty-six seconds to seal their 82-73 victory.