Tigers steamroll Panthers, advance to region semifinal
The Marshall County Tigers played with a keen determination, while displaying their versatility in Saturday night’s Region 6-AA Tournament opener via a 73-50 win over Lewis County at Dottie Kelso Memorial Gymnasium in Lewisburg.
Class 2A TSSAA Mr. Basketball finalist KJ Johnson was the main focus of the Panthers’ attention coming into the contest as they boxed him in, but the Tigers had a plan too and it worked to perfection.
“All of our people did a great job of stepping up,” Johnson said. “I think they were in a triangle and two and they denied me, so it was good that everybody stepped up.”
With Johnson attracting so much attention, the Tigers attacked the basket and Lamarcus Dodson came through with a team-high 19 points in the low post and Jaleel Howard also did heavy damage in the blocks with a career-high 14 points.
“Our post players had an opportunity to shine tonight and they stepped up,” Marshall County coach Lavon King said. “It is one of those things where we are usually averaging about 74 or 75 points a game and we had 73 and KJ had under 20.”
“So it is one of those things that is great to see because you know when we need it, other guys can step up and make plays.”
Johnson scored 17 points, including two big 3-pointers to kick off a 31-point fourth quarter output for the Tigers, who won going away to advance to the region tournament semifinal versus the host Nolensville Knights on Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m.
“We know we have business to take care when we go down to Nolensville,” Johnson said. “It’s gonna be a tough game, but we are ready. We are gonna take it one game at a time and play our hardest every game.”
Marshall County (22-9) and Nolensville (15-13) have met twice this season with the two squads splitting the home and away series.
Fairview (24-6), who eliminated Forrest (12-18) with a 64-58 win Saturday night, takes on Murfreesboro Central Magnet (19-13) in the other Region 6-AA semifinal.
Lewis County (13-18) came to play Saturday at Lewisburg, staying in a head to head battle with Lewisburg behind 19 first half points from Bryson Hinson.
“Lewis County did a good job as far as trying to contain our guards and like I said our post players had to step and they rose to the challenge,” King said. “We knew coming in that they had three players that scored the ball well and that was 5 (Hinson), 20 (Peyton Crowell) and 12 (Cameron Cotham) was their three best players, so we concentrated on number five more in the second half and we did a good job of containing him.”
The Panthers scored 27 points in the first half, but only trailed by three as the Tigers struggled on the offensive end.
The beginning of the second half has been a strength for the Tigers much of the season and it was once again as they put together a 6-0 mini-run to begin the third period behind two points apiece from Johnson, Dodson, and Canelius Turner.
The Tigers held Hinson to one field goal in the second half.
“We just closed out on their shooters more in the second half,” Johnson said. “The first half we were letting them get open shots that they shouldn’t have and we just didn’t match up like we should.”
Marshall County maintained a healthy lead for much of the stanza and led 42-36, entering the fourth quarter.
After Johnson banged home back-to-back long bombs to begin the final period, Cotham scored on a three-point play on a drive to the basket, but that was the final shot fired by the Panthers.
Howard electrified the crowd when he scored on a dunk and that kicked off a back-breaking 13-0 run for Marshall County, including 10 consecutive low post points by Dodson and an insurmountable 61-40 lead for the Tigers.
“KJ just told me to be assertive and be aggressive,” Howard said. “After that three that hit the top of the backboard sent me downward, my teammates gave me my confidence back and I got that dunk.”
Marshall County has not won a region tournament title since the 2010-2011 season and are looking to get back to the state sectional round where they came away with a last second, 56-54 win at Maplewood two years ago that catapulted the Tigers to the state tournament.
MCHS lost in the first round to Fayette Ware.
“Our whole concept has been one game at a time,” King said. “We just forward to the next game and don’t look any farther ahead, so we just have to get ready for Nolensville.”
Lewis County 13 14 10 13-50
Marshall County 19 11 12 31-73
Lewis County (50): Bryson Hinson 21, Peyton Crowell 10, Cameron Cotham 9, Kane Dillon 4, Ty Banks 4, Mikey Ortiz 2.
Free Throws (9-for-12): Cotham 3-for-5, Hinson 2-for-2, Ortiz 2-for-2, Banks 1-for-2, Crowell 1-for-1.
3-Point goals (3): Hinson, Crowell Banks.
Marshall County (73): LaMarcus Dodson 19, KJ Johnson 17, Jaleel Howard 14, Keshun Gentry 9, Canelius Turner 5, Gannon McMahon 3, Andrew Gold 2, Ak’y Howard 2.
Free Throws (16-for-21): Jaleel Howard 4-for-5, Dodson 3-for-5, Gentry 3-for-4, Johnson 2-for-3, Turner 2-for-2, Ak’y Howard 2-for-2.
3-Point goals (5): Johnson 3, Turner, McMahon.
Halftime Score: Marshall County 30, Lewis County 27.