Tigers outrun Mustangs in Christmas Classic

Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Marshall County center (24) Darius McKenzie scored 10 points on 4-of-6 shooting to help lead the Tigers to a 60-51 win over Loretto. Tribune photos by Louis G. Scheuchenzuber

Speed trumped size on Saturday afternoon when the Marshall County Tigers (6-5) defeated the Loretto Mustangs 60-51in the First Farmers Wildcat Christmas Classic at Lawrence County High School.

Marshall County built a 28-24 lead in the first half before opening up a 45-36 advantage early in the fourth quarter.

Loretto (6-3) then rallied to slice the deficit to 47-45 with 3:49 left, but the Tigers kept their composure down the stretch and outscored the Mustangs 13-6 the rest of the way thanks to some clutch free throw shooting to take home the nine-point victory.

When it matters...

Despite hitting just 2-of-12 attempts from beyond the arc, Marshall County shot a respectable 43 percent (17-of-40) from the field while committing only 13 turnovers. After making only 13-of-25 free throws through the first three quarters, the Tigers made them when it mattered the most and hit 11-of-14 foul shots in the fourth period to finish 24-of-39 from the charity stripe overall.

Senior forward Kacy Pleas led three MCHS players in double figures with 12 points and six rebounds. Malek Sain and Darius McKenzie followed Pleas with 10 points apiece, while Chris Walker tallied eight points. D'Andre Brown and Curtis Keiler both notched five points as well and Jay Howard chipped in four points. Trey Crutcher and Keevon Maxwell rounded out the scoring for the Tigers with three points each.

Loretto also shot 43 percent (18-of-42) from the field and knocked down 5-of-13 three-pointers, but attempted only 15 free throws, hitting 10. Although the taller Mustangs outrebounded Marshall County 27-23 and held a 10-9 edge on the offensive glass, Loretto had trouble contending with the Tigers' superior quickness and committed 26 turnovers.

'Work in progress'

"I think our ball pressure wore them down. They had a tough time with our speed and were bothered by our full court press. We're still a work in progress, but we're getting better," said MCHS coach Arnett Bodenhamer.

Myles Burks paced the Mustangs with nine points, while 6'10" center Adam Fleming was limited to only seven points. Lane Myhan and Ryan Weathers also notched seven points apiece for Loretto, and Luke Childress added six points.

Marshall County inched out to an early 8-5 lead thanks to a layup by McKenzie, three foul shots, and a Pleas trey before the Mustangs closed the first quarter with a 10-5 run to seize a 15-13 advantage.

The Tigers controlled most of the second period and outscored Loretto 15-5 through the first 6:07 of the stanza on the strength of six points from McKenzie and four points from Sain to pull ahead 28-20.

After Myhan scored two layups in the final nine seconds of the first half to narrow the gap to 28-24, Marshall County stretched their lead to 32-24 early in the third quarter on consecutive layups by Sain and Brown.

Marshall County's (15) Chris Walker shoots a runner over a pair of Loretto defenders in the second quarter.

Pulling away

The Mustangs tallied eight of the next nine points to slice the deficit to 33-32 midway through the third period, but the Tigers countered with a 12-4 run behind four points from Walker and pair of baskets from Pleas and McKenzie to forge a 45-36 advantage with 7:20 left in the fourth quarter.

Loretto outscored MCHS 8-2 over the next three and a half minutes to close the gap to 47-45 before the Tigers stretched their lead to 51-45 on a Walker layup and two free throws by Pleas.

The Mustangs then sliced the deficit to 51-47 thanks to a layup by Kirkland Suratt, but Marshall County put the game away by hitting 9-of-10 foul shots over the final 1:27 to seal their 60-51 victory.