Having already beaten four Class AAA opponents this season, the Marshall County Tigers (10-3) were unable to successfully step up in weight class again Tuesday night, as they suffered a 66-49 loss at the hands of a strong Columbia Lion squad at the O'Charley's Christmas Classic in Columbia.
Marshall County seemed to be swimming up stream the entire night after falling into an early double digit hole and trailed 30-21 at intermission, before the Lions (11-1) outscored MCHS 36-28 over the final two quarters to snap the Tigers' six-game winning streak.
"You've got to try and avoid falling behind early at all costs especially on the road. We were able to make a run in the second quarter but were just unable to sustain it," said Marshall County head coach Jason Tigert.
MCHS came into the contest averaging nearly 70 points per game, but were stymied by the Lions quick and athletic lineup. The Tigers committed 21 turnovers and finished with just 17 field goals on 39 percent shooting, which included a 7 of 30 effort from three-point range.
"Against a team like Columbia, you've got to take advantage of your open looks. We had some open looks on the perimeter, but just couldn't knock them down," said Tigert.
Sophomore forward Kedren Johnson poured in a game high 20 points on 7 of 9 shooting and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead MCHS. Senior guard Blaise Spencer tallied 15 points on five three-pointers for the Tigers as well, while Brandon Burns and Hunter Osborne had six and four points respectively. Cameron McCullough (two points) and Cory Duvall (two points) rounded out the scoring for Marshall County.
Columbia, conversely, committed only 10 turnovers and shot 43 percent from the field (26-61) despite a 6 of 23 effort from three-point range. The Lions also got a significant contribution from their bench, as Columbia's reserves accounted for 27 of their 66 points.
Forward Dominique Parks paced Columbia with 11 points, while James English and Tra'Darius Goff added 10 and nine points respectively. Davanta Hamlett, Morty Robinson, Jonathan Cooper, and Marsalas Whitaker also scored six points apiece for the Lions.
The Tigers found points extremely hard to come by early on, as Columbia held MCHS scoreless for almost seven minutes while building a 12-0 lead.
Spencer buried a three-pointer from the right corner at the 1:02 mark of the first quarter to finally get Marshall County on the board before Johnson hit a runner in the lane to trim the deficit to 12-5 at the end of the stanza
After Columbia extended their lead to 15-5 early in the second, Marshall County briefly heated up from the outside and put together a 16-7 run on the strength of three treys by Spencer and a Burns three-pointer to narrow the gap to 22-21.
The Lions though wrested the momentum away from MCHS by closing the half with an 8-0 burst to take a nine-point advantage into the break.
Columbia then continued to pad their lead in the second half and began the stanza with a 13-7 spurt to open up a 43-28 lead late in the third quarter.
The Tigers made one last rally attempt and outscored the Lions 10-3 over the next three and a half minutes with the help of seven points from Johnson and a trey by Spencer to cut the deficit to 46-38 with 5:35 left in the fourth quarter.
Unfortunately, Marshall County ran out of steam after that point, and Columbia went on a 16-4 run to push their lead to 62-42 late in the fourth before coasting to the 64-49 victory.