Tigers fall to Eagles in close loss
The Marshall County (1-6) boys continued its stacked 2018-19 non-conference schedule with a home matchup against 1A royalty Summertown (6-1) in the Tigersí second straight Saturday game.
Last Saturday, the Tigers played national powerhouse Corinth (MS) to the final buzzer, but ultimately lost 68-62 in the final game of a tournament that featured a who's-who of both nationally ranked players and teams before coming home to take a another close loss to 3A Columbia Central 80-74.
But unfortunately for Marshall County coach Lavon King, the Tigers once again had plenty of firepower on the offensive end, but were unable to find equal balance of the defensive side of the ball in the 75-71 setback.
"The biggest thing as far as for us to be successful, is that we're gonna have to take a little bit more pride defensively," King pointed out. "I think that anytime you score more than 70 points in a high school game, you should win."
"Especially against a lot of the teams we're playing against," King added. "We've just got to buckle down defensively and get better."
The Tigers could not find an answer for the one-two punch of Brady Brown and Troy Trotter, who had 30 points and 27 points, respectively.
Brown's 18 third quarter points outscored the entire Tigers squad 18-17 and Trotter put up 14 of the Eaglesí 18 points in the fourth quarter to seal the deal.
The Tigers did not have any problems in the scoring column as K.J. Johnson led the home team with 21 points and got plenty of help from Keshun Gentry and Canelius Turner with 16 points each, and Bryson Hughes with 12 points on four triples.
Malik Thomison added four huge, fourth quarter points.
"Offensively we did a good job moving the ball and passing the ball around and getting looks," King said. "But defensively is where we're gonna have to step up and play if we want to win games."
Early defense put the Tigers in positive positions to stay close to the Eagles and grab an early lead.
Johnson picked up a steal and fed Turner for a shot at the first quarter buzzer for a 20-19 Tiger lead headed into the second quarter.
The lead volleyed back and forth with Johnson knocking down a triple in the corner to regain the advantage at 23-22 at the 6:02 mark in the second and as soon as the Eagles ripped the lead away, Johnson took it right back with a steal and a left-handed dunk for the 25-24 edge.
The Tigers took their biggest lead at the 4:29 mark in the second period when a Turner triple pushed the Marshall County lead to 28-26, but the Eagles scored five straight capped off by a Jase Ambrose inbound steal and layup for a 31-28 lead.
Gentry tipped the balance back towards the Tigersí end with short jumper, followed by a steal and a beautiful up and under layup to tie the game at 1:33 left in the first half.
Marshall County ultimately took the final first half lead as Hughes nailed a 3-pointer in the corner at the buzzer for a 36-35 Tiger intermission advantage.
The second half featured much of the same with the lead furiously changing hands every possession.
Brady Brown exploded for 18 of the Eaglesí 22 third quarter points to give Summertown a four-point lead heading into the final period.
Johnson stole an Eagle pass and went the length of the court to trim the Summertown lead to 68-66 and after the visitors stretched the lead to 72-66, Johnson knocked down a long triple to make the game a single possession affair with 28.7 seconds remaining, 72-69.
However, like good teams do, the Eagles sealed the game at the free throw line to take away another chance at a quality Tiger non-conference win.
After getting demolished by 3A Siegel, the Tigers lost to Corinth and Columbia by six each and now Summertown, who has played in four sectionals and two state tournaments in the past decade, by just five points.
The non-conference schedule gets no easier with 3A Lawrence County this Tuesday and next Tuesday with a game against 2016-17 2A state champion Maplewood on Friday.
But like most competitive coaches, King loves a schedule that pushes his players before the district competition starts.
"It's huge because I think that honestly after Christmas it will slow down for us a little but because we'll be used to bigger, stronger, faster athletes and opponents," King stated, "I think that's going to help us out in the long run because wins and losses get thrown out the window when district play starts."
Summertown 19 16 22 18 75
Marshall Co. 20 16 17 18 71
Summertown (75): Brady Brown 30, Troy Trotter 27, Jon Long 6, Austin Morrow 5, Jase Ambrose 3, Gavin Burleson 2, Austin Mattox 2.
Three-point goals (7): Trotter 2, Brown 2, Long 2, Ambrose.
Marshall County (71): KJ Johnson 21, Keshun Gentry 16, Canelius Turner 16, Bryson Hughes 12, Malik Thomison 4, Silas Hurt 2.
Three-point goals (12): Hughes 4, Turner 4, Gentry 3, Johnson.
Halftime Score: Marshall County 36, Summertown 35.