Sometimes it's not how you start, but how you finish. Or it could be how you play in the second quarter.
And St. Mary had an extremely strong second period and used that to hand Paducah Tilghman a 62-53 loss in their boys Second District Tournament first-round game Tuesday night at McCracken County's Strawberry Hills Pharmacy Arena.
The Vikings went on an 18-1 run to start the second and kept Tilghman at bay for the rest of the night.
"It was a good start for us. The last two times we played Tilghman, that didn't happen for us," St. Mary coach Greg Overstreet said. "It was nice to get out of the gates and get some baskets early, especially in the second quarter. It's a lot easier to play when you're ahead."
St. Mary (21-9) clinched a spot in next week's First Region Tournament, and it will get the chance to go in as the top seed from the Second District if the Vikings are able to hold off district regular-season champ McCracken County (20-8) on the Mustangs' home floor Friday night at 7 in the Second District championship game.
Thanks to the weather, the two teams split their regular-season meetings played on back-to-back days. The Vikings won on Feb. 10 at home 77-62, but then lost 69-67 in Strawberry Hills Pharmacy Arena on Feb. 11.
"It's going to be a fun game, even though it's for the district title," Overstreet said. "We know both of us will get the opportunity to go to play in region at the CFSB Center in Murray. But it's St. Mary and McCracken Friday, we split so we're looking forward to Round 3."
McCall Overstreet had the big night and posted 24 points for St. Mary. Patrick Hubert chimed in with 17, and Wes Averill slipped in 12.
Mikey Davis led Tilghman with 16 points, and Andre Strayhorn added 14.
The Blue Tornado managed to get St. Mary's lead down to eight points twice, but each time the Vikings charged back ahead.
A Jessie Dunigan three-point play cut the margin to 35-27 with 4:30 left in the third. But the Vikings answered with a 9-2 run and went up 44-29 on a Hubert freebie with 1:48 to go in the period.
Davis hit two free throws and got PTHS within 56-48 with 1:52 to play. But an Overstreet layup with 41.6 seconds to go and his free throw with 30.3 ticks on the clock put St. Mary ahead 62-50.
Tilghman's Sayveon McEwen hit a 3-pointer with 11.4 seconds left to make it the final.
"We lost the game at the end of the first and start of the second quarters," Tilghman coach Brad Stieg said. "We just had so many bad turnovers and made some bad decisions. We had some opportunities to get the lead, but we had to play catch up most of the night. That's hard to do against a team like St. Mary."
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Paducah Tilghman 11 16 30 53
St. Mary 13 31 44 62
PADUCAH TILGHMAN - Sayveon McEwen 9, Jessie Dunigan 6, Andre Strayhorn 14, Austin Mayes 4, Mikey Davis 16, Hart, Warfield, Belt.
Field goals 15. 3-pointers 5 (McEwen, Strayhorn 4). Free throws 8/10.Record 15-13.
ST. MARY - Patrick Hubert 17, Harrison Dickens 2, Wes Averill 12, McCall Overstreet 24, Nick Eggemeyer 2, Tyler Dome 5, Vaughan.
Field goals 21. 3-pointers 3 (Hubert, Overstreet, Dome). Free throws 11-17. Record 21-9.
Girls: McCracken Co. 47, St. Mary 37 - McCracken County knew it had to play a full 32-minutes against St. Mary if it wanted to advance to the girls Second District Tournament championship game and earn a berth in next week's First Region Tournament.
Luckily enough for the Lady Mustangs, they were able to hold off the Lady Vikings' second half-charge and came away with a 10-point victory Tuesday night at Strawberry Hills Pharmacy Arena.
"We had been talking to them about playing a full 32 minutes. It's been a while since I felt like we've done that," McCracken County coach Josh Barnett said. "But that's what it was going to take to win this game. St. Mary battles you and they did all the way down to the buzzer tonight. I felt our girls stepped up and tried to put 32 minutes together. I was proud of how they handled the boards. It was a total-team effort on our part."
The win sets McCracken County (15-15) up for a Second District championship showdown with regular-season champ Paducah Tilghman at Strawberry Hills Pharmacy Arena on Thursday night at 7 .
Tilghman (21-8), which went 6-0 in league play, beat McCracken County the three times the teams played this year: 68-65 on Dec. 28 in the Murray Bank Lady Tiger Classic and twice in the regular season, 55-31 on Jan. 17 at Tilghman and 67-44 on Feb. 14 at McCracken.
"It's a great opportunity for us on our home floor," Barnett said. "We're looking forward to play a real-quality team like Tilghman. They had a great year and Rod Thomas has done a nice job. We're good friends. We're going to come in and throw it up on Thursday. They'll be ready to battle and I hope we will, too."
Alex Smith was the Lady Mustangs' top scorer with 15 points. Kaylyn Telfair added 13 and Jacqueline Roof chipped in 11.
St. Mary, which ends the season 15-11 overall, had Alex Durbin lead with 16 points and Casey Kupper ended with 11.
McCracken led 19-8 with 2:11 to go in the second and took a 22-12 lead in at halftime.
St. Mary whittled the margin down to 28-27 with 1:30 left in the third on Katie Gipson's jumper, and the Lady Vikings trailed 32-31 with 6.9 seconds remaining in the period on Maria Shockley's layup.
But the Lady Mustangs sealed it with a 10-3 run and went up 42-34 with 2:07 to play on a Telfair free throw. A layup by Smith with 43.5 seconds left made it the final.
"Free throws make you or break you, and I tell them that every single day," St. Mary coach Staci Averill said of her team shooting 6-of-20 from the free-throw line. "We worked a lot on them. But I have to give it to McCracken, because on average they don't shoot very well at the free-throw line. But they made their free throws tonight and we didn't."
McCracken County went 15-of-19 from the stripe.
St. Mary 8 12 31 37
McCracken Co. 15 22 32 47
ST. MARY - Julianne Keoning 3, Maria Shockley 2, Casey Kupper 11, Katie Gipson 6, Alex Durbin 16, Word, Thomas.
Field goals 16. 3-pointers 0. Free throws 6/20.Record 15-11.
MCCRACKEN COUNTY - Lexie Baer 7, Jacqueline Roof 11, Alex Smith 15, Maria Lemus 1, Kaylyn Telfair 13, Weir, Kidd, Womack.
Field goals 10. 3-pointers 3 (Roof 2, Smith). Free throws 15/19. Record 15-15.
Call James D. Horne, a Sun sports writer, at 270-575-8661 or follow on Twitter @psunsports.