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The Marion County Knights varsity boys basketball team hosted the Taylor County Cardinals Friday night at the Roby Dome in front of what may have been the biggest and most supportive crowd to see a ballgame recently. All fans were asked to wear white to the game to make the effect of a “white-out.”
“I think the overall atmosphere was a key for us to come away with the victory,” Head Coach Anthony Epps said. “As a team, we just go out and try to protect our home court. Our guys just have an attitude to just never give up and play as hard as they can until the end.”
After a hard fought battle in which the lead went back and forth, the Knights ended up picking up the win by four points, with a final score of 55-51.
Three Knights scored in double figures, with senior Deshawn Douglas leading the way with 17 points. Junior Carlos Litsey notched another double-double, scoring 16 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, while freshman Clay Lanham came off the bench to spark the Knights with 10 points. This victory helped Marion County clinch the regular season No. 1 district seed, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished by the Knights since 2000.
In the first quarter, Marion County scored the first four points of the game before Taylor County answered back with five points of their own. With the Knights leading 6-5 with 4:07 remaining, the Cardinals went on a 7-0 run to grab a six point lead. Marion County committed seven turnovers in this frame, and sophomore Vincent Collins picked up his fourth foul before the period was over. The Knights would add a free throw to make the deficit five points at the end of the first quarter, with a score of 12-7.
The second quarter was pivotal in the Knight comeback. The Knights were able to trim the lead to one point with 5:02 remaining at 18-17. The Cardinals then went on an 8-1 run to push the lead back to eight points, with a score of 26-18. Coach Epps called a 30-second timeout to regroup his ball team. After the timeout, Marion County finished the second period on an 8-0 run of their own to tie the score at 26 going into halftime.
The Knights scored 11 points in the third period with nine of those points coming on three-point field goals.
With 3:59 left, senior Josh Brockman hit a three point field goal that gave Marion County a two point lead at 35-33. From that point on Taylor County would outscore Marion County 8-2 to lead 41-37 at the end of the third quarter.
Marion County would battle to contain Cardinal big man Tevin Webster as he scored the first four points for Taylor County in the final period. With 7:04 remaining the Cardinals led by six points with a score of 45-39. The Knights reeled off nine unanswered points over the next two and a half minutes to regain a three point lead at 48-45. During the final two minutes of the game, junior John Southall would connect on a three point field goal and two free throws. Litsey would also add a late field goal to help the Knights hold off the Cardinals attack in a 55-51 victory.
“The underclassmen were a major part in the outcome of the game, but you still have to give credit to the upperclassmen for showing leadership throughout the game,” Epps said. “The confidence that they showed just trickled down to everyone that played in the ballgame.”
Epps said the team showed a lot of heart by coming back in the fourth quarter to win the game.
“It was a well played game by both teams,” he said. “I am just happy for the guys to see that all the hard work they put in during the preseason is paying off. We enjoy the victory of the win on homecoming, but we know that we still have a lot of basketball to play!”
Marion County 7 19 11 18 - 55
Taylor County 12 14 15 10 - 51
Marion County (11-7): Deshawn Douglas 17, Carlos Litsey 16, Clay Lanham 10, John Southall 9, Josh Brockman 3
Taylor County (11-11): Tevin Webster 19, Caleb Wiggington 9, Trae Wells 6, Matt Chewning 5, Lucas Bradshaw 4, Chase Seaborne 4, Latrelle Irvin 3, Zack Manning 1