Tigers stun 3rd-ranked Champs
The Marshall County Tigers came into Wartrace on Friday night with a lot to prove, sporting a misleading 6-9 record and coming into the game with back-to-back losses to 3A Ravenwood and 2A perennial power CPA by a combined 13 points.
The Tigers wanted the chance to knock off undefeated and third-ranked Cascade (12-1, 1-1) to let the rest of the district know MCHS is for real.
The Cascade gym was packed and witnessed Marshall County (7-9, 1-1) finally hold a late lead to a quality opponent and finish them off with a hard fought 56-49 win.
With the Champions playing CPA at home on Tuesday night, District 12A looks to have a logjam at the top of the standings by the time district tournament rolls around.
"A win is a win is a win is a win," Marshall County coach Arnett Bodenhamer said. "No disrespect to the number three team in the state, but we needed a win. I don't give a darn if it's the school for the blind. So it just feels good to win. Hopefully we can keep it going and stop being a heart monitor, up and then down one minute."
With a pre-district schedule pitting match-ups against ten 3A schools and three highly esteemed 2A schools (East Nashville, Pearl-Cohn, and Chattanooga Brainerd) giving Marshall County an unfavorable record heading into the game it was easy to see that the standing room only crowd in Wartrace thought the Champions would roll to an easy win and keep its undefeated record intact heading into the CPA game.
But the Champions early season schedule consisting of primarily local 1A schools and did not prepare Cascade for the pressing quickness of the Marshall County attack and the crowd seemed stunned when the Champs did not put the Tigers away early.
"Defensive stops definitely got us a key win tonight," K.J. Johnson, who tied for the scoring lead with 12 points, said. "It was good just to get the win and get back on track. This will get our confidence back up."
Malek Sain dropped in 12 points and grabbed three rebounds, D'Andre Brown added 11 points and five rebounds, and Caleb Fields scored eight points, grabbed five rebounds and dished out five assists in a tremendous effort for the Tigers.
The lead seesawed back and forth early with each team matching the others big play shot for shot.
The Champions started out on fire, stunning the Marshall County crowd with a 17-9 lead by 15 combined points from Hayden Edmonson, Lane Simpson, and Dakota Newcomb.
With Cascade holding an early 20-17 lead, MCHS big man Darius McKenzie made his first appearance of the season felt with a huge offensive rebound and put-back and a subsequent foul shot to retie the game just when the Champs were looking to run away with the lead.
"We had been lacking as far as an inside presence," McKenzie, who scored five points, grabbed five rebounds, and handed out two assists in limited minutes in his first game back from an injury, said. "I didn't want to do too much, but I felt if I went in there and did my role, rebound, and be a defensive anchor than I could help us win. I just felt that was big for me and our team."
Late in the second quarter, Johnson missed a 3-pointer from the corner, but ran in to grab his own rebound and hit the lay-up to push the Marshall County lead to 27-22 before Hayden Edmonson scored a three point play to put the Champions right back in the game, heading into halftime.
Sain would take over in the third period, scoring nine of his 12 points after sitting nearly the entire first half on the bench in foul trouble.
Johnson would come up big again too, nailing a 3-pointer off a pass by Sain and later driving to the rim and dishing it off to Montrell Harris for the 47-37 lead with 6:59 left in the game.
Cascade would pull within two points, but the Tigers nailed five-of-six foul shots down the stretch to leave Wartrace with its biggest win of the young season.
"Yesterday coach pulled up some film of us playing Cascade last year," McKenzie said. "He showed us getting after it on defense, on offense we were crashing the boards, making shots in transition and that really fired us up. We really wanted to get back to .500 in the district."
Marshall County 9 20 16 11-56
Cascade 17 8 12 12-49
Marshall County (56): D'Andre Brown 11, Caleb Fields 8, Montrell Harris 2, KJ Johnson 12, Curtis Keiler 4, Keevon Maxwell 2, Darious McKenzie 5, Malek Sain 12.
Cascade (49): Jaden Chumbley 2, Hayden Edmonson 20, Seth Gardner 2, Austin Gentry 8, Dakota Newcomb 9, Lane Simpson 8.
Three-point goals: Marshall County (4)- Johnson 2, Sain, Brown. Cascade (1)- Edmonson.