The seventh ranked Marshall County Tigers, one game back of first place Spring Hill in District 10-AA, travelled deep into southern Tenn. Tuesday night, taking on the Loretto Mustangs and came away with a hard fought 64-61 win, keeping pace with the Raiders, who blasted Hickman County 73-36.
The Tigers needed every ounce of energy to overcome a third quarter charge by Loretto, but persevered with a tenacious defensive effort and some clutch long range shooting by Hunter Osborne and Brandon Burns in the fourth quarter for their eighth straight win over the Mustangs.
"The seniors (Osborne and Burns) stepped up tonight and did what seniors do. They both hit some big shots for us," said head coach Jason Tigert.
Marshall County scored first on a nice pass from Brandon Burns to Kedren Johnson on a back door play. With the score 6-4 in favor of the Tigers, Loretto's Matt Gailey hit a three-pointer to give the home squad a one-point lead.
Burns made it 8-7 on a feed from Hunter Osborne after Osborne stole the ball at half court and another Loretto turnover led to a Johnson bucket in the paint and a 10-7 lead. After a Loretto missed shot, Johnson found Broderick Tears on a no-look pass for an easy lay-in and a 12-7 lead.
The Mustangs scored four straight, cutting the lead to one point before Cameron McCullough drove the lane for a short shot and two possessions later, Tears swiped the ball and went the distance, making the score 16-11.
MCHS took the five-point lead into the second quarter, eventually building the lead to eight points at 20-12. Loretto began to chip away at the lead, getting it down to two points at 21-19, before Burns drained a three-pointer to stretch it back out to five.
Johnson made it a seven point ballgame when he stole the ball and went the other way, slam dunking the ball over a Loretto defender.
The Tigers had the momentum and increased the margin to as much as 12 points before the home team got hot late, cutting the 12 point lead to five at 36-31 at the half.
The Mustangs came out in a gallop for the third quarter, tying the game after two possessions on a three-pointer by D. J. Smith. Johnson answered with a basket for Marshall County before Loretto went on an eight-point run, started by another Smith long ball and led 44-38 with 3:50 left in the period.
Osborne drained a three-bomb, keeping the Tigers close at 44-41 and Johnson cut it one point closer with one of two from the free throw line. Loretto's Colin Stout scored the last bucket of the third period and the Tigers trailed 46-42, going into the final eight minutes.
Things did not begin well for the Tigers in the fourth quarter as Brady Kimbrel opened with a three, increasing the Loretto lead to seven.
Johnson muscled in a basket in the paint and after a Mustang miscue, Osborne threw down a long range three-pointer, cutting the Mustang margin to two points at 49-47.
Disaster almost struck Loretto when McCullough stole the ball, but the official on the other side of the floor gave the Mustang coach a timeout with 7:05 left in the game.
There was no scoring for the next two minutes until Osborne floated in a three-pointer, giving the Tigers a 50-49 lead at the 5:20 mark.
The lead would see saw back and forth for about three minutes until Burns hit a bomb from long range with 2:07 left, giving MCHS a 60-57 lead with 2:07 remaining in the contest.
Marshall County would not give in, coming away with the three-point victory to improve their record to 19-5 on the season. The Tigers go for win number twenty Friday night versus an East Hickman squad they pasted earlier in the season 67-42.
Tigert was happy with the win and said, "Loretto came out with a lot of energy in the second half there and hit us in the mouth, but we were fortunate enough to have enough gas in the tank to hit some big shots in the end."
Spring Hill (16-6, 12-0) must face third place Page (15-8, 8-4) in Rudderville Friday night before the big, season ending match-up with the Tigers on Feb. 10 at Spring Hill.
Tigert, not wanting to look ahead too far said, "We have East Hickman Friday night and we have to stay focused on that. Sure, we have set some goals this year and one of them is winning the district title and that is still attainable. We are not expecting help from anyone. We can control our own destiny by winning out."
Osborne and Burns both had 16 points for the Tigers, combining on six treys in the game. Johnson finished with 12 points, McCullough and Dominic Matthews each had 7 points, Tears scored 5, and Corey Duvall had 1.