MUSCLE SHOALS — Behind some clutch defense, a big fourth-quarter by hobbled guard Debo Reeder and some sharp perimeter shooting, Muscle Shoals snapped this season’s string of close losses, outlasting Colbert County in the first round of the county tournament Tuesday.
Reeder scored 9 of his 11 points, including two 3-pointers, in the final 5 minutes, and the Trojans’ switch to a trapping zone defense helped frustrate the Indians into some critical late turnovers, as Muscle Shoals escaped with a 46-45 win.
The Trojans (3-9), the defending tournament champions, advance to play Colbert Heights in the semifinals Friday at Northwest-Shoals Community College.
“We switched to that trap, zone defense, and that kind of changed the momentum of the game, I thought,” Muscle Shoals coach Jody Lanier said. “Our kids have been playing so hard, but it has just seemed like the ball wouldn’t go in. We’ve had a tough time scoring lately. But we fought through it, and thank goodness we made them turn it over. That’s where we got our points.”
Muscle Shoals, which previously led for only a stretch of 2 minutes, 39 seconds during the third quarter, tied it at 43 on Demarian King’s 3-pointer with 1:14 to play.
Colbert County (7-9), which had 26 turnovers in the game, turned it over on its next two trips. Meanwhile Reeder, who had been hobbled with an ankle injury the past two games, had a steal and made both 1-and-1 free throws at the other end to give the Trojans a 45-43 lead with 25 seconds remaining.
“It hurt me a little,” Reeder said of his ankle, “but I had to play through it, though. I just fed off my teammates and fed off their energy.”
Reeder got to the free-throw line again with 20 seconds left, but missed the first of two attempts, leaving it a 3-point Trojans lead and the door open for the Indians.
Colbert County’s Jonah Casteel then pump-faked a 3-point attempt from the right wing, got a defending Reeder airborne and leaned into to him to draw a shooting foul with 7 seconds to play. But Casteel missed the first of three free throws, leaving it a 1-point deficit.
The Indians got the ball back after two missed Muscle Shoals foul shots, and Casteel drew backboard on a half-court heave at the buzzer but couldn’t get it to fall.
“He played a real tough game,” Colbert County coach Jim South said. “He played extremely hard. Our kids played hard. Fewer turnovers here and there, and it might have been different. Muscle Shoals made the plays we didn’t make. We had some good looks, we just weren’t able to finish.”
Casteel finished with 13 point and three 3s. Sam Howard also had 13 points to go with five rebounds for Colbert County.
King matched the game-high with 13 points and was 3-of-3 from 3-point range, while the Trojans made 6 of 8 from beyond the arc. Jalen Ricks added 13 points and three rebounds for Muscle Shoals, which trailed by as many as 10 in the first quarter but pulled within 22-20 by halftime.
“It would be good to win this tournament, and get some things going our way,” Reeder said. “We have to keep our energy up and keep it going.”
n Deshler 70, Cherokee 40: Thomas Gamble and Zach Garner each scored 11 points in the first half, as Deshler pulled away early in an easy county tournament-opening win.
Gamble finished with 18 to lead four double-digit scorers for the Tigers (9-7).
B.J. Bailey (14), Chandler Brown (13), who sank three 3s, and Garner (11) reached double figures.
Deshler opened up a 47-27 lead by halftime.
Austin Gooch’s 15 points led Cherokee.
Deshler advances to play Sheffield in the semifinals Friday at 5:30 p.m. The Tigers have won 2 of 3 meetings with the Bulldogs this season, including the last two.
n Colbert Heights 55, Covenant Christian 37: Kaleb Suggs scored 27 points to lead Colbert Heights to a win in its tournament opener.
The Wildcats (9-6) jumped out to an 11-5 lead and never looked back, earning a semi-final date with Muscle Shoals.
Sam Griffen scored 12 points to lead Covenant Christian.
n Muscle Shoals 60, Colbert Heights 38: Muscle Shoals jumped out to a 14-5 first-quarter lead and held Colbert Heights to six baskets from the field in a first-round rout at the county tournament.
Ardayzha Reeder led the Trojans with 11 points, while DeNesha Byrd added 10.
Muscle Shoals opened up a 30-17 lead by halftime.
Mykeauna Ingram scored 7 of her team-high 11 points at the free-throw line for Colbert Heights.
Bryan App can be reached at 256-740-5730 or firstname.lastname@example.org.