Fields’ absence starting to sting MCHS
Before the Christmas break, Marshall County was a favorite to make the Class AA state tournament out of Middle Tennessee.
But after the loss of point guard Caleb Fields to a boarding school in Kentucky and Devon Wilson to Columbia, the Tigers are having trouble finding bodies to play and scorers to back up K.J. Johnson.
The struggles continued on Thursday night as the Tigers lost to a subpar Murfreesboro Central (11-9, 1-1) team 61-52 days after squeaking by an average Community (7-8, 0-1) squad.
"I just feel like we didn't get the stops that we needed to get going down the stretch," Johnson, who led all scorers with 25 points, said. "We penetrated and kicked it out good on offense, but we just didn't get stops on defense."
The Tigers led the majority of the first period, but slowly succumbed to the Central pressure and found themselves down by double digits midway through the second quarter and for the most part of the second half.
The Tigers cut the lead down to seven points on an A'Ky Howard triple with 6:24 in the fourth quarter, but struggled to make shots after forcing several Central turnovers.
The Tigers also got another huge game from big man LaMarcus Dodson with 10 points and 11 rebounds and Howard added six points on a pair of 3’s, but Marshall County continues to need more players to step up after the midseason shakeup.
"We just have to keep our heads up no matter what and just play as hard as we can because we're playing with a chip on our shoulder," Johnson said. "And we know that since (Fields) is gone we're all gonna have to play harder and some other players are going to have to step up."
Johnson provided that spark in the opening frame, scoring 13 of the Tigers 15 first quarter points but Central remained close behind with 13 points.
Michael Brown knocked down a triple to break a 15-15 tie and give Central its first lead of the game before Nick Hamlatt buried another three from the top of the key to extend the lead to 21-15.
Central added another bucket before Johnson nailed his fourth triple of the game to bring the home team back to within 23-18, but Jack Smith hit his only triple of the game two possessions later to extend the lead to 28-18.
Howard kept the Tigers within striking distance in the final period, knocking down a three to trim the lead to 51-44 with 6:24 left in the game and another triple with 2:37 left to get back to within 55-48, but that was a close as the home team would get as Central would go on a 6-4 run to end the contest.
The Tigers look to a much anticipated matchup with intra-county rival Forrest (6-12, 2-0) who sits on top of the district standings after surprising upsets over Giles County and Nolensville.
The game will feature two of the best shooters and scorers in Johnson and Ryley McClaran of Forrest.
"I haven't really been thinking too much about it (the matchup with McClaran), but I'm for sure ready for it," Johnson said. "It's going to be an exciting game. It's going to be very packed and it's going to be real intense."
The Marshall County/Forrest game has been rescheduled for Monday, January 22 at Chapel Hill.
Marshall County 15 11 12 14 52
Murfreesboro Central 13 19 19 10 61
Marshall County (52): K.J. Johnson 25, LaMarcus Dodson 10, A'Ky Howard 6, Jaleel Howard 4, Canelius Turner 3, Andrew Gold 2, Taylor Clark 2.
3-Point Goals (8): Johnson 5, Howard 2, Turner.
Central (61): Nick Hamlett 23, Will Carver 20, Steph Laird 6, Michael Brown 5, Patrick Norman 4, Jack Smith 3.
3-Point Goals (5): Carver 2, Smith, Hamlett, Brown.
Halftime Score: Murfreesboro Central Magnet 32, MCHS 26.