Tigers stumble in second half against Centennial
For the fourth time in the last five games, the Marshall County Tigers (7-6) were unable to hold onto a halftime lead, as the Centennial Cougars (9-4) rallied to defeat MCHS 46-40 on Thursday afternoon at the Beech Holiday Classic.
Playing their fifth straight Class AAA opponent, the Tigers did not seem to be bothered by the Cougars' superior height early on and built a 28-23 lead at halftime.
Marshall County's offense, however, bogged down in the second half, as Centennial outscored the Tigers 23-12 over the final two quarters to escape with the six-point win.
Hindered by a 0-of-16 shooting performance in the third quarter, Marshall County shot a woeful 27 percent (16-of-59) from the field overall, which included a 3-of-18 effort from three-point range.
The Tigers also left several points at the foul line and made only 5-of-12 free throws in the contest, compared to a 9-of-14 effort at the charity stripe by the Cougars.
"If I had the answer to why we've been struggling in the second half, I would fix it. It might be the pressure of having the lead and being worried about losing it," said MCHS coach Adrian Wilson. "This is four out of five games we've lost after having the lead at halftime. I hate it for the kids right now."
Aaron Hobbs led Marshall County with 12 points and four steals, and Chris Walker added 10 points. Cameron Bowers tallied six points and eight rebounds as well, while Barry Mayes, Kasey Pleas, and Malek Sain each chipped in four points with Pleas grabbing a team high 11 rebounds.
Centennial shot only 31 percent (17-of-54) from the floor, knocked down just 3-of-14 attempts from beyond the arc, and committed 10 more turnovers (25-15) than the Tigers, but outrebounded Marshall County 49-30 and held a 14-11 edge on the offensive glass.
"We did a decent job of stopping them from entering the ball into the post. It was the offensive rebounds that hurt us. I don't think they got many easy points," said Wilson. "They were a bigger team and it was a physical game inside, which didn't favor us."
Forward Matt Pond, who is garnering interest from a handful of Division I colleges, did the most damage for Centennial, as the 6'5" senior tallied 21 points, 17 rebounds, and two blocked shots. Scotty Fleming followed Pond with 10 points, while JaNique Johnson and Brucer Atkinson both added four points.
The Cougars jumped out to a quick 8-2 lead before Marshall County went on a 9-4 run behind five points from Walker to narrow the gap to 12-11 late in the first quarter.
After Centennial outscored MCHS 9-4 over the next four minutes to open up a 21-15 advantage early in the second period, the Tigers rattled off six straight points on a Mayes offensive put back and a pair of layups by Bowers and Hobbs to knot the game at 21-21 midway through the stanza.
Pond scored on an offensive put back to give the Cougars a brief 23-21 lead, but Marshall County closed the half with a 7-0 spurt, highlighted by a Walker trey, to take a 28-23 advantage into the break.
MCHS then saw things go south in the third quarter, as Centennial outscored the Tigers 10-1 in the stanza to seize a 33-29 lead.
Sain scored on an offensive put back to cut the deficit to 33-31, before the Cougars responded with a 9-2 spurt to forge a 42-33 advantage with 3:25 left.
Marshall County then narrowed the gap to 42-38 with 2:15 remaining thanks to a Bowers three and a layup by Mayes, but MCHS mustered just two points the rest of the way while Pond and Fleming combined to hit four-of-six free throws down the stretch to seal Centennial's 46-40 victory.