If the first two games between McCracken County and Marshall County are any indicator of a third meeting at the CFSB Center in March, the First Region championship may very well come down to the final possession.
In its sweep of the regular-season home-and-home series with Marshall, McCracken has displayed clutch shooting, especially late in the game.
In the first meeting two weeks ago, it was Noah Dumas from the free-throw line. In Friday’s 58-53 win, lights-out three-point shooting – several in the first half – was what pushed the Mustangs over the edge.
There’s also a name that most of the region might not have heard much of: Ian Hart.
Friday, he showed some of what piqued some early Division I curiosity, though no offers have been given – yet.
With two right-corner treys, Hart pushed McCracken back ahead 42-40 with 4:50 left in the contest, before bumping the Mustangs’ lead to 48-43 with 3:10 to go.
“Well, Coach (McCracken coach Burlin Brower), he sees the gaps in the other teams’ defenses and sets us up,” Hart said. “He gets us in the corners, gets us on the wings and puts us in a position to score.”
The sophomore has also earned the praise of his teammates.
“He’s a great player,” said McCracken senior and Murray State signee Jackson Sivills, who had a team-high 20 points. “He knocked down two huge shots to help win the game.”
If there is indeed to be a third chapter between McCracken and Marshall, Marshals coach Terry Birdsong said some changes need to happen, first.
“We told them after the game we’re just halfway through our season,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of games left. It’s hard sometimes to get momentum and confidence when you play the schedule we play, because it’s hard to string together three or four wins in a row. I think if we can ever do that, where we can win five or six in a row, and the kids get to keep building confidence and believe in what they’re doing, I think we’re going to be a different team.”
Zion Harmon had a game-high 25 points for the Marshals.
Marshall County 12 13 10 18 — 53
McCracken County 20 12 7 19 — 58
MARSHALS — Harmon 25, Stokes 14, Powell 11, Nimmo 3
Field goals: 18/54. 3-pointers: 9/21 (Harmon 4, Powell 2, Stokes 2, Nimmo). Free throws: 8/9. Rebounds: 31. Fouls: 15. Record: 7-9.
MUSTANGS — Sivills 20, Dumas 15, Jones 10, Hart 6, McCune 4, Heard 3
Field goals: 18/49. 3-pointers: 11/18 (Sivills 4, Dumas 3, Jones 2, Hart 2). Free throws: 11/17. Rebounds: 28. Fouls: 10. Record: 14-4.
Lady Marshals exact revenge on Lady Mustangs
When last the two teams met, it was McCracken County that upset one of the First Region’s favorites on its home court.
Friday, Marshall County returned the favor with a 68-50 win on the road.
The Lady Marshals started out on a 6-0 run in the first two minutes, before bumping it to 12-2 with 2:07 left on the way to a 16-6 advantage after one quarter.
But, the Lady Mustangs responded with a 16-6 clip of its own to cut the deficit to 22-20 with 2:00 left in the half.
Marshall opened its lead, however, taking a 26-20 lead to the locker room.
“We worked on defense all week,” Lady Marshals guard Presley Jezik said. “So, we had to adjust our plays and play defense how we haven’t been playing this season, in the past.”
The Lady Marshals put the game out of reach in the fourth, leading 60-44 with 3:30 to go.
“I want to commend our kids for fighting back in the second quarter, cutting the lead to six points at the half,” McCracken coach Scott Sivills said. “But, it was a back-and-forth game, pretty much, the rest of the way. We just couldn’t make some plays, where they did.”
Cayson Conner had a game-high 26 points for the Lady Marshals, while Destiny Thomas paced McCracken with 16.
Marshall County 16 10 23 19 — 68
McCracken County 6 14 17 13 — 50
LADY MARSHALS — Conner 26, Pea 11, Jezik 8, Driver 5, Teague 5, Hall 2
Field goals: 25/52. 3-pointers: 3/10 (Pea, Conner, Teague). Free throws: 15/18. Rebounds: 24. Fouls: 11. Record: 9-6.
LADY MUSTANGS — Thomas 16, Rudy 12, Sivills 9, Johnson 7, Morehead 4, Russell 2
Field goals: 17/55 3-pointers: 7/25 (Rudy 4, Sivills 2, Johnson). Free throws: 9/16. Rebounds: 30. Fouls: 14. Record: 7-7.