MURRAY – It’s hard to imagine a more entertaining basketball game than the one Marshall County and Murray played Thursday night for the Fourth District basketball championship.
It’s harder still to imagine a more heartbreaking way for the Lady Marshals to lose.
Murray got a pair of free throws from senior standout Janssen Starks with 6.8 seconds left in the second overtime period and came away with a 70-69 win at Calloway County’s at Jeffrey Gymnasium.
“It was one of those games that you hate for either team to have to lose,” Lady Tigers coach Rachelle Turner said. “What a battle.”
Marshall County’s Joseph Simmons had similar feelings.
“That was a classic ball game right there,” he said. I’m sure it was fun to watch from the stands.”
Marshall County led by six, at 68-62, with 1:19 left. But Starks, who had a game-high 28 points, made a layup in transition that cut it to 68-64.
Then Marshall County’s Mariah McKenty and Starks each hit one of two free throws to move the numbers to 69-65 as the clock moved inside the final minute of play.
The rest of the game was marked by frantic back-and-forth, much of it ragged. On two straight possessions, the Lady Marshals were unable to get the ball in bounds.
In between those possessions, Starks missed a three-point attempt but Murray rebounded and she coolly drained another try, cutting the lead to 69-68 with half a minute to go.
After regaining the ball, Murray’s Elizabeth Grogan missed, but a held ball on the rebound gave the Lady Tigers the ball with 12 seconds to go. Starks drove the lane for a shot that was blocked by Marshall’s Alyssa Barnard, but a foul was whistled, sending Starks to the line for the deciding points.
It was a game of repeated comebacks by both teams. Marshall County turned a one-point deficit after eight minutes into a six-point halftime lead, only to see Murray storm back and tie it at 40-40 after three periods.
Marshall County led by five at 45-40 with 5:36 left in regulation, only to see Murray rally to knot it a 48-all at the 2:51 mark.
Murray never was able to get in front before time expired, but a pair of free throws by Starks with 49 seconds left made it 53-53, and neither team could break the deadlock.
An over-and-back call on a closely-guarded Starks gave the Lady Marshals the ball with 7.4 seconds, but the sparkplug guard stole the ball for a final chance to end it. Her heave from more than 20 feet out did not come close.
Murray never trailed in the first extra frame, but never led by more than three points. Starks missed a layup that could have given Murray a five-point edge with 40 seconds left and McKenty cut it to 62-61 with a basket 10 seconds later.
Murray’s Kalai Trice misfired on a three-pointer just inside 10 seconds to go and Barnard was fouled with seven ticks left. She hit one of three free throws to send the game into the second overtime period.
Murray failed to score in the first three minutes of the second OT while Marshall built the six-point lead.
“I’m proud of our kids,” Turner said. “They never gave up. We’re down six with a little over a minute to go and our kids never quit and Janssen really stepped up.”
“We had ‘em down,” Simmons said. “We didn’t execute down the stretch. All we had to do was get the ball inbounds, get fouled and make some free throws.
“We fought back from a deficit and gave ourselves a chance to win and that’s all you can ask for.”
Starks was the only Lady Tiger to score in double figures. Taylor Meadows had 22 for Marshall County, and Alex Brown and Barnard had 13 apiece for the Lady Marshals.
Murray lost four games against the Lady Marshals last year, including the district championship tilt in a controversial 61-60 decision, and then by 10 in the region semifinals. But the Lady Tigers won both regular-season meetings between the rivals this year.
Marshall Co. 14 24 40 53 62 69
Murray 15 30 40 53 62 70
MARSHALL CO.: Bailey Greer 4, Taylor Meadows 22, Mariah McKenty 9, Toni Fehrenbacher 2, Alex Brown 13, Melissa Ross, Amanda Bailey, Rachael Reed 6, Alyssa Barnard 13
MURRAY: Kalai Trice 6, Macey Turley 3, Janssen Starks 28, Maddie Waldrop 4, Kayleigh House, Julie Thiede 8, Elizabeth Grogan 21, Hannah Clark
Marshall Co. 56,
Calloway Co. 40
The Lady Marshals beat the Lady Lakers for the third time this season Tuesday night in the semifinals, earning a spot in Thursday’s championship game and an automatic berth in the First Region tournament.
Taylor Meadows led all scorers with 19 points. Bailey Greer added 12 and Mariah McKenty 10 for Marshall County, 23-8. Bailey Brown had 15 for Calloway, which closes its season 15-16.
Murray won its semifinal on Monday night, whipping Community Christian 80-38.
Marshall Co. 14 25 37 56
Calloway Co. 9 19 28 40
MARSHALL CO.: Bailey Greer 12, Taylor Meadows 19, Mariah McKenty 10, Toni Fehrenbacher, Alex Brown 5, Melissa Ross, Rachael Reed 2, Alyssa Barnard 8
CALLOWAY CO.: Kelsey Douglas 3, Summer Simmons 9, Abbey Spann 10, Bailey Brown 15, Darien Maness, Courtney Dick, Ashlyn Stalls 1, Danielle Potts, Ashton Shelton 2