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By Will Phillips
After losing back-to-back games to Taylor County and Central Hardin, the Marion County Knights were trying to right the ship on Friday night as they travelled to Nelson County.
The Cardinals had lost four straight and eight of their last nine, but they didn’t back down from the Knights. The game was a battle in the early going, and Marion County held a two-point lead at the end of the first period, 14-12. In the second quarter, the Knights pulled away, outscoring Nelson County 26-16 in the period and taking a 12-point lead into halftime.
At the 6:10 mark of the second quarter, senior forward Latrelle Irvin converted a three-point play, putting him over 1,000 points as a Knight. Irvin finished the game with 14 points and seven rebounds.
After a back and forth third quarter, which ended with the Knights in front, 56-46, the Cardinals came charging back.
In the fourth quarter, both teams made big plays as Nelson County opened the quarter with a 9-3 run, bringing them within four, 59-55, before a layup by Irvin and a shot by Knights junior Anton Cowherd extended the lead back to eight.
Again, though, the Cardinals answered. Nelson County senior Aquarius Watkins hit a runner in the lane to close to within six. A few seconds later, his teammate, junior Tyler Reynolds drove inside and buried a shot close to the rim to again bring his team within four points, 63-59.
Irvin missed two free throws at the other end, but Cowherd cleaned up the offensive glass to give the Knights a seven-point cushion.
Each time Marion County extended its lead and seemingly put the game out of reach, Watkins or one of his teammates would make a big shot to bring them back within striking distance.
“They came and made a big run. [Watkins], you know, we couldn’t stop him,” Knights Coach Montrelle Irvin said after the game. “No matter who we threw at him, he got inside and did his part, and he scored.”
Coach Irvin said his team was trying to be patient and run its offensive sets.
“We had a couple of good, open shots that didn’t fall down. We had some good penetration, and instead of laying the ball up, we tried to make the extra pass,” he said. “Sometimes we’re too unselfish. We just need to go and handle our business.”
In the end, senior guard Anthony Mattingly drilled two free throws with 4.9 seconds remaining to put the Knights up by five and seal the win, 71-66.
Cowherd led the Knights with 21 points. He also grabbed eight rebounds.
Nelson County’s Watkins led as all scorers with 25 points in the loss. Nelson County (6-13) has now dropped five games in a row.
This win snaps a two-game losing skid for the Knights (15-5), who are still in contention for the district title.
“We needed it bad for our confidence,” Coach Irvin said. “Losing two games in a row, and giving up 90 points…there’s no way you give up 90 points playing any defense, so that was our main focus today, just trying to play defense.”
Knights escape Seneca
Following their victory at Nelson County, the Marion County Knights played host to the Seneca Redhawks. The game was even throughout, with the visitors sporting a two-point halftime lead, 30-28.
It remained tight in the second half, as the Knights held a 59-49 lead early in the fourth quarter.
The Redhawks (5-18) used a run to claim a 64-61 lead with 2:46 remaining, but the Knights answered. Senior Latrelle Irvin scored on a layup and junior Anton Cowherd converted two foul shots to retake the lead, 65-64. The Knights held on to win, 71-69.
Irvin led all scorers with 26 points.
Bruins too much for Knights
Marion County visited the Central Hardin Bruins on Jan. 28. The home team led throughout, routing the Knights, 93-71 behind Bruins senior Jacob Barnes’s game-high 33 points.
Central Hardin shot almost 58 percent from the floor and nearly 47 percent from beyond the arc.
Senior Alex Smith and junior Anton Cowherd both finished with 15 points for Marion County. Senior Latrelle Irvin grabbed a team-high seven rebounds in the loss.