Defense was in short supply Friday night, as the Marshall County Tigers (16-4, 8-1 District) defeated archrival Giles County 75-72 on Homecoming to complete the regular season sweep of the Bobcats.
After jumping out to a 17-point first quarter lead, the Tigers withstood several Giles County comeback attempts and still held a 73-61 advantage midway through the fourth before fending off one final rally by the Bobcats (5-9, 4-5 District).
"It's nice to get the W, but this is the fourth time that we've had trouble protecting a lead in the fourth quarter. We're a confident bunch so I don't know what the problem is," said MCHS head coach Jason Tigert. "We're definitely playing with urgency early, but we need to have that the entire game."
Although the Tigers faltered down the stretch, Marshall County's offense clicked on all cylinders for much of the evening. The Tigers committed only 12 turnovers and finished with 32 field goals on 53 percent shooting, which included an 8-of-21 effort from three-point range.
Sophomore forward Kedren Johnson turned in another strong performance and led MCHS with a game high 23 points on 11-of-17 shooting to go along with nine rebounds, nine assists, and two blocked shots.
Hunter Osborne and Brandon Burns followed Johnson with 17 points apiece and combined to knock down six treys. Osborne also grabbed a team high 10 rebounds, while Burns scored 14 points in the second half.
"Brandon's got a lot of confidence and we've got a lot of confidence in him. He's really stepped up in the big games. With Blaise out, he's going to have to continue to do that," said Tigert.
Dominic Matthews tallied nine points and four rebounds for the Tigers as well, while Cameron McCullough and Broderick Tears had five and four points respectively.
Marshall County, however, had trouble getting stops on the defensive end, as Giles County notched 28 field goals on 47 percent shooting, including five three-pointers, and committed just 10 turnovers. The Bobcats also held a 9-6 edge on the offensive glass and outscored MCHS 11-3 at the foul line.
Forward Kadijon Townsend paced five Giles County players in double figures with 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Hakeem Dartis and Lance Rivers scored 14 and 12 points respectively. Dominique Harney also added 11 points for the Bobcats and Darius Gardner had 10 points.
Giles County held a 5-4 lead early in the first, but the Tigers caught fire offensively and put together a 25-7 run with the help of eight points from Osborne and a couple of treys from McCullough and Matthews to seize a 29-12 advantage at the end of the quarter.
The Bobcats though got back into the game in the second and outscored Marshall County 20-8 through the first seven and a half minutes of the period to close the gap to 37-32, before Johnson hit a layup in the closing seconds of the half to give MCHS a 39-32 lead at the break.
Giles County tallied the first four points of the third to whittle the deficit to 39-36, but the Tigers countered with a 13-6 spurt thanks to two three-pointers from Burns and five points from Johnson to open up a 52-42 advantage with 3:20 left in the quarter.
The Bobcats then narrowed the gap to 52-47 late in the third, before Marshall County closed the period with a 10-3 burst, highlighted by an Osborne trey and a three-point play by Burns, to stretch their lead to 62-50.
After Giles County cut the deficit to 64-59 early in the fourth, Burns buried a three from the left wing to spark a 9-2 MCHS run and help the Tigers forge a 73-61 advantage with 4:08 left.
The Bobcats made one final push and tallied 11 of the next 13 points to slice the deficit to 75-72 with 4.4 seconds remaining.
McCullough then missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with two seconds left, but Harney was well off the mark on a long range desperation heave at the buzzer.