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Mars Hill boys avoid Lexington's upset bid
By Jeff Edwards -
Allison Carter/TimesDaily
Wilson's Colby Wesson, left, prepares to shoot as Rogers' Nathan Thompson attempts to block his shot Tuesday at Lexington High School.

LEXINGTON — The fist pump that Mars Hill’s Thomas Swinea gave after burying a clutch 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter against Lexington was born more of relief than exultation.

Swinea’s trey gave the Panthers a four-point lead and finally a little bit of breathing room en route to a 64-55 victory at the Lauderdale County Tournament on Tuesday.

“It was a one-point back-and-forth game for a long time,” Swinea said. “It seemed like we would score and then they would come right back and score to take the lead again. To get that four-point lead that late in the game was huge. It felt good to get a little separation.

Swinea’s 3-pointer with 1:50 remaining gave the Panthers a 56-52 lead, and the Panthers hit 8-of-10 free throws in the final 90 seconds to seal the victory and advance to the tournament semifinals against Lauderdale County on Thursday.

Swinea and Landon Willis each scored 16 points for Mars Hill while Harrison Chastain added 12 and Joe Wilson tallied 11.

It took all the Panthers could muster to hold off the Lexington duo of Wade McNutt and Jake Rogers. McNutt had 20 points, including four 3-pointers while Rogers had 17 points.

Lexington took its tempo right to Mars Hill early, scoring the first six points of the game, and led 29-26 at halftime.

“They jumped up on us early and got very comfortable in their offense,” Mars Hill coach Mike Mitchell said. “They pretty much did what they wanted to a lot of the time on offense.”

After Mars Hill took the lead early in the third quarter, the final quarter and a half was like a tennis match, with the teams trading the lead on almost every possession. Mars Hill took the lead for good with 2:15 remaining on Chastain’s short jumper in the lane. After a Lexington miss, Swinea buried his 3-pointer and the Panthers could breath a sigh of relief.

“I told our guys the game would be like a 12-round heavyweight fight,” Lexington coach Ricky Bryant said. We hung in there until the 12th round, but we just ran out of gas. I’m not much for sentimental losses, but that was one of the better games we’ve played against an outstanding team.”

n Rogers 58, Wilson 52: Wilson built a halftime lead with its zone press defense, but in the second half, Rogers found the holes in the zone and Caleb Morrow made the Warriors pay.

Morrow hit five 3-pointers and scored 19 points to lead Rogers to a 58-52 win in the Lauderdale County Tournament quarterfinals. The Pirates advance to Thursday’s semifinals to play Brooks.

“We really looked nervous early in the game but we settled down in the second half, and played better in the flow of the game,” Rogers coach Chris Krieger said. “Caleb got hot and made some open looks in the corner when they were sitting in zone. That seemed to settle everybody else down.”

Wilson led 32-26 at halftime but back-to-back Morrow 3’s early in the third quarter gave Rogers the 35-34 lead. Wilson recovered to take a 41-35 lead but Rogers scored the final eight points of the quarter and led 43-41.

“We lost the third quarter,” Wilson coach Jeremy Pounders said. “Rogers did a good job of handling the pressure and hit some big shots. They did a good job of moving the ball around and finding the open shooter.”

The first half of the fourth quarter was back and forth, but a Morrow 3-pointer with 3:20 left gave Rogers a 49-47 lead and the Pirates wouldn’t look back. After a missed shot by Wilson and a foul, Rogers’ Reagan Curbow hit two free throws to give the Pirates a four-point lead.

Following a Wilson turnover, the Pirates put it away with a nice pass from Morrow to Latham Thompson for a layup that gave Rogers a 53-47 lead with 2:00 left.

Thompson finished with 16 points.

Wilson’s Brennan Parrish led all scorers with 22 points while Austen Oakley scored 13 and Pate Wear had 10 for the Warriors.

n Lauderdale County 66, Waterloo 44: It took an extra day, but Lauderdale County finally punched its ticket to the semifinals with a victory over Waterloo.

The game was supposed to be played Monday night, but inclement weather postponed it to Tuesday afternoon. And perhaps the unexpected 2:30 p.m. tip-off affected Lauderdale County, as the Tigers led just 30-29 with 3:20 remaining in the third quarter before going on an 18-0 run to put the Cougars away.

“It took us a while to get our intensity going,” LCHS coach Mark Newton said. “That’s something we’ve been trying to overcome. We’re trying to find a leader to lead us in the first part of the game.”

Austin Christopher and Drew Newton led the Tigers with 15 points each, with eight of Christopher’s coming in the fourth quarter. Dustin Barksdale scored 11 for LCHS.

Tyler Whipple led Waterloo with 16 points while Wayne Darby had 11 for the Cougars.

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