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The Marion County Knights' struggles continued last week but showed progress in their Friday night loss to Taylor County.
Despite the loss, Head Coach Tim Peterson was pleased with the team's effort.
"Our effort was a lot better overall," he said. "We want more from our point guards. We need them to make better decisions. We need to do a better job in half court situations, we need to read changing defenses better."
On paper, Taylor County looked to be leaps and bounds ahead of the Knights. The Cardinals narrowly lost to a North Hardin team that trampled the Knights 88-40 at the Roby Dome. The Cards had also claimed wins against mutual opponents Campbellsville and Garrard County.
However, the Knights showed their grit against the Cards.
Led by Leonard Macon, a transfer from Danville, and Chase Cox, the Cards jumped out to a 7-0 lead. They built the lead to 14-6 but Marion County reeled off five straight in the last minute of the first quarter. The Knights were behind 14-11 after one quarter.
The Knights opened up the second quarter with a three from Chris Southall, his third of the half, to tie it at 14-14.
Taylor County would go on another 7-0 run to go up 21-14 but Marion County would soon counter.
After pulling within two (21-19), Chuck Elder drew his second charge on Macon, sending the big man to the bench with over three minutes to play in the half.
Four straight points by Austin Spalding would pull the Knights within one (24-23) and a technical foul on Cox with 18.3 seconds to go in the half would swing the momentum in the Knights favor.
Cox was called for technical after an elbow to the head of Josh Reed after the whistle was blown against Reed for a defensive foul. Reed and Cox went head-to-head all night as Reed smothered the Cards go-to-guy.
Southall would make the first free throw despite a raucous Taylor County student section in his ear. Southall missed the second free throw, smiling afterwards because the crowd obviously effected his concentration.
Down 25-24 with 18.3 to go, the Knights would have the ball.
Jason Buckman found himself with the ball as time wound down. Buckman scored with little time remaining to give the Knights the lead and momentum heading into the locker room.
The Knights and Cards would go toe-to-toe in the third quarter. The Knights jumped out to a 28-25 lead but Taylor County countered with a three pointer to tie. The game would be tied again at 33-33 but then Taylor County would pull ahead for good. The Cards would build the lead to seven at 42-35 but the Knights would come roaring back to pull within four points at 44-40 to end the quarter. Southall's fourth three-pointer with a second to play would help close the gap.
Neither team scored a field goal until nearly midway through the final period. Up until that point Taylor County built their lead to five (47-42) with free throws. Marion County struggled from the line.
With 3:01 to play, Reed got his fourth foul to send Cox to the line. Cox missed two free throws, a feat that rarely occurs for the sharp shooting senior. Cox was an 84 percent free throw shooter heading into the game. He was 121 for 144 from the line.
The Knights weren't able to capitalize as Taylor County put the game away with a pair of free throws and a bucket by Macon with 1:36 to play to extend the lead to nine points (53-44).
Reed would foul out with 27.3 seconds to play, sending Cox to the line to clinch the game and make it 57-46.
Southall, who Taylor County put the clamps on in the second half, hit his fifth and final three with 5.5 seconds to play. The Knights fell 58-49 at Taylor County.
"We shut down Cox for the most part. He averages 24 points a game but only got a few buckets on Josh," Peterson said. "This will hopefully become a rallying point for us. Our game plan was not to let them get looks. Reed played great. He brought a great game defensively, as he has all season. If he can get his offense to catch up with his defense, he'll be better. It's usually the other way around."
Southall led the Knights with 20 points. D.J. Hall was also in double figures with 10 points.
The Knights' losing streak extended to seven games. Their record for the season drops to 4-15.
Marion 11 15 14 9 - 49
Taylor 14 11 19 14 - 58
Marion County (4-15) - Chris Southall 20, D.J. Hall 10, Chuck Elder 8, Austin Spalding 5, Jason Buckman 2, Tyler Thompson 2, Derek Cissell 2
Adair County 57, Marion County 39
The Knights were unable to avenge an early season loss to district leader Adair County on Tuesday night of last week.
The Knights shot 10 percent from the floor in the first half and were held to zero points in the first quarter. The Knights headed to the locker room down 28-7.
Things got a little better in the second half but it was far too late for the Knights as Adair County disposed of them 57-39. The Adair defense held the Knights to their lowest scoring output of the season.
Derek Cissell led the Knights with 12 points and eight rebounds. Deshawn Douglas had 11 points and four steals.
Adair 16 12 7 22 - 57
Marion 0 7 10 22 - 39
Marion County - Derek Cissell 12, Deshawn Douglas 11, Chris Southall 8, D.J. Hall 4, Chuck Elder 2, Austin Spalding 2