Tigers fend off Cascade
Having been knocked out of the playoffs in the first round of the District 12-AA tournament each of the last two years, the Marshall County Tigers exorcised some of their postseason demons on Friday night when they defeated the Cascade Champions 51-46 at home in the semifinals after receiving an opening round bye.
Marshall County (17-9) had swept the regular season series against Cascade, but the Champions (19-9) had MCHS on upset alert late in the contest and trailed just 44-43 with 3:11 left in the fourth quarter.
The Tigers then buckled down defensively and held Cascade without a field goal the rest of the way while closing the game with a 7-3 run to advance to the District tournament championship game.
Thanks to Friday's win, Marshall County also earned the right to host a first round home game in the upcoming Region 6-A tournament.
"It was very important to win this game. We know Waverly and Creek Wood are very good teams and now we'll get to host a first round game against a lower seeded team. We'll be ready for whoever we play," said Tiger senior guard Chris Walker, who finished with six points and three assists.
Bolstered by an 8-of-15 shooting performance in the first quarter, Marshall County shot 45 percent (20-of-44) from the field overall despite hitting only 3-of-12 three-pointers. The Tigers also outrebounded Cascade 26-20, held a 10-3 edge on the offensive boards, and committed only five turnovers.
Malek Sain led MCHS with 12 points and four assists, while Darius McKenzie added 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting. Caleb Fields and D'Andre Brown tallied eight and seven points for the Tigers as well.
After shooting a blistering 58 percent (10-of-17) in the first half, the Champions hit only 4-of-16 field goal attempts over the final two quarters to finish 14-of-33 from the floor overall, which included a 4-of-15 effort from beyond the arc.
"Cascade came out and executed their game plan and took us out of our game," said Marshall County coach Arnett Bodenhamer. "At the end of the game we got some big stops. That was a big key. I wasn't happy with the performance, but I was happy with the W.
James Lattimore paced the Champions with 15 points, while Austin Gentry and Dacota Newcomb notched 10 and nine points respectively.
Cascade inched out to an early 7-5 lead, but Marshall County put together a 14-4 run behind seven points from Sain, a Fields three-point play, and a pair of layups from Kacy Pleas to pull ahead 19-11 late in the first quarter.
After Gentry drained a three to cut the deficit to 19-14, the Tigers rattled off seven straight points on a Walker layup, a trey by Steven Dangerfield, and a Brown baseline jumper to open up a 26-14 advantage early in the second period.
The Champions battled back and outscored MCHS 19-5 over the next 5:50 to grab a 33-31 lead before Marshall County tallied the last four points of the half on an offensive put back by Sain and a Fields reverse layup to take a 35-33 advantage into the break.
Cascade notched the first five points of the third quarter to go up 38-35, but the Tigers closed the stanza with a 9-2 run on the strength of four points from McKenzie and baskets from Fields and Walker to seize a 44-40 advantage.
In the fourth, the Champions sliced the deficit to 44-43 midway through the period on a layup by Gentry and Lattimore free throw, but the Tigers scored five of the next six points with the help of two layups from McKenzie and a Sain foul shot to stretch their lead to 49-44 with :50 remaining.
Following two free throws by Edmonson, which closed the gap to 49-46, Marshall County held Cascade scoreless on their final two possessions while McKenzie and Fields each hit one-of-two foul shots to seal MCHS' 51-46 win.
Marshall County 21 14 9 7 = 51
Cascade 14 19 7 6 = 46
Marshall County: Malek Sain 12, Darius McKenzie 10, Caleb Fields 8, D'Andre Brown 7, Chris Walker 6, Kacy Pleas 5, Steven Dangerfield 3.
Cascade: James Lattimore 15, Austin Gentry 10, Dacota Newcomb 9, Hayden Edmonson 6, Seth Gardner 6.
Three-point field goals: Marshall County (3): Sain 1, Brown 1, Dangerfield 1; Cascade: Gentry 2, Edmonson 1, Newcomb 1.
Halftime score: Marshall County 35, Cascade 33.