MURRAY – Give Murray the early lead in the battle for Fourth District girls basketball supremacy.
The youthful Lady Tigers handed two-time defending First Region champions Marshall County a 45-39 defeat Friday night at Tiger Gym, improving to a region-best 13-2 and an all-important 1-0 in district play.
The Lady Marshals lost their second straight game after opening with nine straight wins.
Murray showed no effects of the loss of 39 percent of their offense from last year, in the person of graduated Janssen Starks and her 25.3-ppg average. They pulled away from a 25-25 tie at halftime, outscoring the visitors 10-7 in each of the final two periods and surviving two occasions when the Lady Marshals pulled to within a single point but were unable to get over the hump.
Macey Turley, an eighth-grader with a year of varsity experience under her belt already, and freshman Maddie Waldrop were the key starters, with 10 points (Turley) and 10 rebounds (Waldrop).
Turley was a perfect 6-for-6 from the free-throw line. The last two came on both ends of a bonus try at the 2:33 mark after Marshall County had cut the lead to 37-36.
Meanwhile, sophomore Bethany Armstrong came off the bench to lead Murray with 13 points, hitting four of seven 3-point shots, including one after Marshall County had clawed to a 39-38 deficit with just over two minutes left in the game.
The Lady Marshals never recovered, and Murray ran out to a 45-38 lead, the biggest margin of the game, before Alyssa Barnard hit a free throw with nine seconds left to give the game its final score.
Barnard led Marshall County with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Bailey Greer added 10.
The game saw eight lead changes, but the back-and-forth was all in the first half. Marshall County got a basket by Bailey just over a minute before halftime to tie it, but Turley hit two free throws in the first minute after intermission and the Lady Tigers led the rest of the way.
The game kicked off what promises to be yet another hammer-and-tong, season-long battle between the two schools. Last year, Murray won two regular-season meetings and then captured the district tourney championship in a 70-69 overtime win. But Marshall County took a 41-39 victory to capture its second straight First Region championship in the region tourney title game.
The year before, Marshall County swept four games, defeating the Lady Tigers 60-50 in the region tourney finale.
The district wars continue Friday when Marshall County visits Calloway County. The Lady Lakers are 9-5 going into this week after a 66-61 defeat at McCracken County Saturday.
Murray and Calloway will clash on Jan. 17 to conclude the first half of the double round-robin for the three teams competing for the championship.
Marshall Co. 12 25 32 39
Murray 14 25 35 45
MARSHALL CO. – Bailey Greer 10, Allie York 7, Toni Fehrenbacher 4, Michaela Manley 1, Alyssa Barnard 16, Melissa Ross, Amanda Bailey, Hannah Langhi 1
MURRAY – Macey Turley 10, Maddie Waldrop 5, Kayleigh House 5, Julie Theide, Elizabeth Grogan 2, Kalai Trice, Bethany Armstrong 13, Christina Duncan, Haley Glynn, Hannah Clark 4