MURRAY – Marshall County, which gave up 64 and 63 points in two regular-season meetings with Graves County, throttled the Eagles in a 59-36 victory in the first round of the First Region basketball tournament Wednesday night at Murray State University’s CFBS Center.
The Marshals move on to face Fulton City, a 58-45 winner over Lone Oak, in the first of two semifinal games Monday night.
The win gave the 30-2 Marshals their first 30-win season and avenged the only loss suffered by the Marshals against a First Region opponent this year. Graves pulled out a 63-60 victory on Feb. 3.
Cole Nelson led a balanced attack for the Marshals with 14 points, followed by Chase Clark with 13, Chase York with 12 and Austin Rentfrow with 11.
Mason Beale, the only Eagle to solve the Marshal defense, had 18 points, hitting five of 10 shots from the floor, all three of his three-point attempts and five of six free throws.
Beale’s performance was in stark contrast to the Eagles’ team numbers. They were held to 23 percent shooting, hitting only 11 of 47 shots from the floor. They were a few tenths of a percentage point better from long range, hitting five of 21, and managed only nine of 15 free throws for 60 percent.
Marshall County suffocated the Eagles in the second half, when they hit only four of 22 shots and one of 11 from three-point range.
The Marshals, meanwhile, were businesslike on offense, hitting 20 of 41 shots for just under 49 percent, including three of nine long-range goals. They also made good on 16 of 21 free throws (76 percent).
Marshall County jumped out to a 14-6 lead before Graves rallied to cut the lead to 15-10 at the first quarter stop. But that was the last time the Eagles were within as few as five points.
A buzzer-beating three-point basket by Beale trimmed the lead from 26-17 to 26-20 at halftime.
But Graves County scored only 16 points after intermission, eight in each period, as Marshall put the game away. The lead continued to gradually expand, to 24 points at 55-31 at the 4:26 mark.
Each team added one basket and two of three free throws to make it 59-35 before a final Graves free throw gave the game its final score.
The Marshals held guard Tyler Starkey and center Jacob Hackel, who as a tandem average nearly 15 points per game, scoreless. Starkey scored 44 points in the two regular-season meetings, including 27 in a losing cause Jan. 13.
THURSDAY: Third District champion St. Mary (20-10) takes on First District champ (14-14) at 6 p.m. tonight as first-round boys’ play continues. Second District winner Paducah Tilghman (16-13) plays Calloway County (11-19), runner-up to Marshall County in the Fourth District, at 7:45.
FRIDAY: Marshall County meets Lone Oak in the first girls’ semifinal game at 6 p.m., followed by Murray-Paducah Tilghman in the second. The winners advance to Saturday night’s championship game, scheduled for a 7 p.m. tip-off.
Boys’ semifinals and championship games are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday next week.