MURRAY - St. Mary wasn't the ideal opponent for Marshall County to open the First Region boys basketball tournament Saturday night at Murray State's CFSB Center.
Sure, the Marshals beat St. Mary twice in the regular season by a combined 21 points and haven't lost to the Vikings since at least 2000. But Marshals coach Gus Gillespie wasn't happy with the fact that his team would have to beat the Vikings for a third time to advance.
No worries. The Marshals fended off a late Vikings rally for a 66-59 win to improve to 26-8 in the all-time series. They play Mayfield at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the semifinals.
"We knew they'd be ready for us," Gillespie said. "This was everything we expected. We put a few new things in, and I think St. Mary did, too. It was a tough, tough ballgame."
The Marshals (21-10) advanced after center Austin Rentfrow scored a team-high 16 points, and D.J. Pigg added 13. Mason Wooten and Collin Travis each had 11.
The Vikings (21-10) took a 16-12 lead into the second quarter behind Patrick Hubert's seven and Wes Averill's five first-quarter points. But the Marshals went on an 8-4 run over the first five minutes of the second period to take the lead for good on a shot by Wooten.
They led 35-28 at halftime and extended it to 48-38 going into the fourth quarter. Averill trimmed the deficit to seven, 54-47, midway through the period, and Hubert cut the margin to five, 62-57 late, but the Marshals were able to withstand the Vikings' rally.
The Vikings shot 11 of 17 (64.7 percent) in the first half but 7 of 22 (31.8 percent) in the second.
"We felt like we could improve our defense in the second half," Gillespie said. "The first half, they made some tough shots, and we were having some breakdowns. You just can't have that against a team like St. Mary that can score so many points."
Despite the loss, Vikings coach Greg Overstreet couldn't find fault with his players.
"I thought we played a heck of a ballgame," he said. "We took away the things we were trying to take away from those guys. Everybody did the things we asked them. Tonight, it wasn't enough."
The loss ends the Vikings' season and the careers of their seven seniors, including Averill, Hubert and McCall Overstreet, who finished with seven points. Averill scored a game-high 22 and Hubert added 19.
"It's tough," Greg Overstreet said. "They've been in a lot of games. You hate to see them go, but it's time for them to move on and become young college guys."
St. Mary 16 28 38 59
Marshall County 12 35 48 66
ST. MARY - P. Hubert 19, Dickens 3, Vaughn 2, Averill 22, Smith, A. Hubert, Overstreet 7, Dome 6.
Field goals 18/39. 3-pointers 5/13 (Averill 2, Hubert, Dickens, Overstreet). Free throws 18/20. Rebounds 23. Fouls 18.
MARSHALL COUNTY - Taylor 8, Beckett, Pigg 13, English, Wooten 11, Jolley, Gunn, Warnick 7, Travis 11, Sandin, Rentfrow 16.
Field goals 23/39. 3-pointers 7/12 (Pigg 3, Warnick 2, Wooten, Travis). Free throws 13/20. Rebounds 20. Fouls 15.
Call Daniel Paulling, a Sun sports writer, at 270-575-8662, or follow on Twitter @DanielPaulling.