The Marshall County Tigers (12-3) may have registered a Pyrrhic victory Saturday in the East Literature New Year Classic. Marshall County defeated the Greenbrier Bobcats 66-52, but saw senior shooting guard Blaise Spencer go down with an injury midway through the fourth quarter after taking a charge.
Spencer broke his collarbone on the play and will be out of action 4 to 6 weeks, depending on rehab.
"Blaise is absolutely the heart and soul of the team. This isn't unique to us as far as injuries go. Somebody else is going to have to step up," said MCHS head coach Jason Tigert.
The Tigers led by as many as 17 points in the first half, but Greenbrier slowly chipped away and whittled the deficit to five in the fourth quarter before Marshall County used a late run to pull away for the fourteen-point victory.
"Greenbrier was gritty and just out hustled us to get back into it," said Tigert. "We found a way to close out the game though and answered their run so that's a real positive,"
Despite hitting just 9 of 29 shots in the second and third quarters, the Tigers still finished with 23 field goals on 44 percent shooting, highlighted by a 10 of 25 effort from three-point range.
Marshall County also held an 11-5 edge on the offensive glass and out rebounded the Bobcats 28-24 overall.
After scoring 26 points the previous night against Kenwood, MCHS senior guard Hunter Osborne continued to thrive in the cramped confines of East Literature's gymnasium, as he knocked down 9 of 17 shots, including five treys, to finish with a game high 23 points. Osborne notched eight rebounds and three assists as well.
Kedren Johnson followed Osborne with 17 points, nine rebounds, four steals, three assists, and one blocked shot, while Broderick Tears added 7 points.
Spencer and Brandon Burns also tallied six points apiece for the Tigers, while Dominic Matthews and Cory Duvall had four and three points respectively.
Although Greenbrier shot a respectable 46 percent from the floor (17-37), Marshall County disrupted the Bobcats' Princeton style offense with full court pressure and half court traps. As a result, MCHS recorded 16 steals and forced 24 turnovers by Greenbrier.
"We wanted to take them out of that style of play and we did a good job of that early before they made some adjustments," said Tigert.
Caleb Roberts led three Bobcat players in double figures with 12 points, while Seth Remberton and Alex Porter tallied 11 and 10 points respectively. Cory Elliot also had nine points for Greenbrier.
The Tigers appeared they might run the Bobcats out of the gym early on, as they bolted out to a 22-5 lead late in the first quarter on the strength of six points from Johnson and two three-pointers apiece from Osborne and Spencer.
Greenbrier trimmed the deficit to 22-9 by the end of the period, but Marshall County stretched their lead to 26-9 early in the second on a Tears trey and a free throw by Matthews.
The Bobcats outscored MCHS 14-7 the rest of the half to close the gap to 33-23 at the break before Marshall County opened the third quarter with a 7-2 spurt, highlighted by an Osborne three, to open up a 40-26 advantage.
Greenbrier then put together a 11-2 run to cut the deficit to 42-37 midway through the third, but Johnson, Osborne, and Matthews each buried treys to give the Tigers a 51-41 lead late in the stanza.
After the Bobcats narrowed the gap to 51-46 early in the fourth, Johnson stood near mid court with the ball and burned nearly three minutes off the clock when Greenbrier refused to get out of a 3-2 zone.
The Bobcats finally blinked and switched to a man-to-man defense before Burns scored on an offensive put back to make it 53-46 with 4:50 left.
Greenbrier pulled within five points two more times, but the Tigers turned it on down the stretch and ended the game with a 9-0 run thanks to six points from Johnson and an offensive put back by Osborne to clinch the 66-52 victory.