Tigers warming up to task
In a twist of irony, the two teams most prep football pundits predicted would be meeting on the gridiron last weekend in Cookeville for the 4A state championship were instead lacing it up on the hardwood at Lewisburg.
While Memphis East and Knoxville Central were battling for pigskin supremacy, Marshall County (2-2) and Pearl Cohn (3-1) fought neck and neck through four quarters before the Firebirds pulled away late for a 47-40 win in a possible preview of a March tournament matchup.
"We played hard, we might not have played smart the whole time but we played hard," Marshall County coach Arnett Bodenhamer, who led the Tigers to the 2A state tournament in just his second season, said. "I can't knock that. It's a marathon, not a sprint. So we'll get better."
Jay Howard, who is back playing basketball for the first time in over two seasons, led the Tigers in scoring with 16 points and rebounding with 19 boards, while adding two blocks and a steal.
"It's definitely different because I haven't played in two years, but I'm back into it and I'm going to try my hardest," Howard said. "My teammates wanted me to get rebounds, that's why coach put me in there--to get rebounds and that's what I'm gonna do. That's my role on this team and I need to take pride in it."
The Tigers also got 14 points and five rebounds from K.J. Johnson and Caleb Fields added 13 points six rebounds and five assists.
In the first game back on the court from the football player's two key components off the state tournament team, D'Andre Brown and Donathan Tears combined for 12 points, seven rebounds, and three assists.
The Firebirds were led by Michael Crawley with 12 points, William Shaw had 11 and Stephen Starks added 10 as 10 Pearl-Cohn players scored.
The Firebirds beat the Tigers badly 74-47 last season, but Marshall County stayed close on Friday cutting the lead to two points at 51-49 with 5:41 in the fourth before losing by seven.
The Tigers shot just 2-for-16 from long range and 16-for-32 from the charity stripe.
"We missed a lot of layups and free throws," Bodenhamer said. "We lose by seven points and we're 16-for-32 from the line and I didn't even tally up the layups."
The Firebirds jumped all over the Tigers from the get go, leading 18-4 with just 1:40 left in the first quarter before the home team calmed down and decided to make a game out of it.
"We didn't start out the way we needed to and we didn't rebound as well as we should," Fields, who was recently named a top 15 junior in the state in Basketball Time in Tennessee, said. "We've got to work on making our easy shots and our free throws."
Tears hit a reverse layup and Fields made three free throws to cut the lead to 18-9 heading into the next quarter.
The second period belonged to the Tigers, who outscored Pearl Cohn 22-16 to cut the 14 point lead down to three when Howard skied for a block and fed Tears on the other end with six seconds remaining for a 34-31 Firebird lead at the half.
Brown brought the Firebird lead down to two with a driving layup with 5:01 in the third period before knocking down 1-of-2 free throws on the next possession to inch closer at 37-36, but Michael Crawley soared for a tomahawk baseline dunk to push the lead back to three.
KeAnthony Wilson scored a layup and William Shaw tipped in a Pearl Cohn missed 3-pointer to stretch the lead back to 44-36 in the span of two minutes.
The Tigers made a move to start the final period starting with a Howard steal to feed Johnson for the layup and a Fields coast-to-coast layup and free throw after a foul to cut the lead to 50-47.
The Tigers' run was derailed on the next possession when a driving Fields was fouled on a layup attempt and a controversial technical foul was called on the point guard who subsequently missed two free throws that could have cut the lead back to one.
Howard scored on three straight possessions to cut the lead to five points with 1:42 left, but the Firebirds hit their free throws down the stretch to win by seven.
"As bad as we were playing in the first half, what did we go in down by, three?" Bodenhamer asked. "So I think we got that dog in us, just gotta be smart with it."
"Pearl-Cohn is a good team, long and athletic," Bodenhamer added. "We're gonna be playing someone from Nashville, hopefully, God-willing, sometime in March. This is just one ballgame, one night and you gotta make sure you're prepared that night."
"That's what these ballgames are doing. You look at our schedule and it's tough."
The Tigers look to make it three in a row at winless Shelbyville Central (0-5) on Tuesday before taking on undefeated Giles County (5-0) in Pulaski on Friday for its first district game of the season.
The Tigers will resume its tough non-district schedule Saturday against powerhouse Memphis Manassas (3-2) at Whites Creek High School.
Marshall County 9 22 10 19-60
Pearl-Cohn 18 16 14 19-67
Marshall County-Jay Howard 16, K.J. Johnson 14, Caleb Fields 13, Donathan Tears 7, D'Andre Brown 5, Keshaun Gentry 3, Dayveontae Brown 2
Three-point goals-Gentry, Johnson.
Pearl Cohn-Michael Crawley 12, William Shaw 11, Stephen Starks 10, Davon Miller 7, Byron Chambers 7, Adonis Easley 6, Jamonte Mitchell 4, Jacquie Scantling 4, Kailyn Benton 3, KeAnthony Wilson 3
Three-point goals-Shaw, Crawley, Benton
Halftime score-Pearl-Cohn 34, Marshall County 31