Commanders slip in second half, fall to rival Marion County

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By Brandon Mattingly


Washington County @ Marion County
76-61 Marion County
When: Saturday, Jan. 5
Where: Marion County High School
Key players: WCHS – Alex Marshall
Game highlights: The Commander basketball team (4-11) had border rival Marion County (7-8) on the ropes at halftime on Saturday night, but were unable to duplicate their early success In the second half, dropping a 76-61 contest on the road.

The Knights had the edge after the opening quarter at 19-17, but Washington County locked down in the second quarter, holding MC to 10 points, and taking a four-point lead into halftime.

“In the first half, we were taking the ball to the basket and getting some backdoor layups,” said Washington County Head Coach Russell Burkhead. “In the third quarter I think you could start to see our legs go and we were starting to get tired.”

Marion County took advantage to the tune of 47 points in the second half on their way to a convincing 15-point victory. Despite the final margin, Saturday’s game was one that the Commanders had a shot to pull out, and Burkhead likes his team’s chance for round two on Feb. 2 at Washington County High School.

“I’ll like to play them when we get them over here in a few weeks,” he said. “That’s another one of those games where we end up down 15, but it was neck and neck until the last four minutes.”

Washington County was led by senior Alex Marshall, who posted a 31-point, seven-rebound performance. Marshall is averaging 23.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per game over the last four games.

“Alex is starting to be the Alex that I thought he had a chance to be three or four years ago,” Burkhead said.

Junior Thomas Pettus added 11 points for the Commanders, followed by junior Jared Young’s nine.

Washington County @ Bethlehem
58-38 Bethlehem
When: Friday, Jan. 4
Where: Bethlehem High School
Key players: WCHS - Alex Marshall BHS - Harrison Rogers, Jordan Cooper-Livers
Game highlights: Washington County suffered a 20-point loss on Friday night at Bethlehem (12-1), but remain in the third spot in the 19th District standings with three district games to play.

WC fell behind early and was unable to claw back into the game, as the Eagles - 4-0 in the district - took a 15-7 lead after the first quarter. They increased their advantage to double-digits, 30-20, on a Will Hale jumper as the clock winded down for the first half.

Pettus scored five quick points to start the second quarter to keep WC within striking distance, but a 7-1 run -- capped off by a three-pointer from junior Shane Beisler -- gave Bethlehem a 13-point lead midway through the third.

Bethlehem senior Harrison Rogers pushed the lead to 18 points at the beginning of the fourth quarter with a basket and a foul, and the Eagles weathered an eight-point surge from Marshall early in the quarter to coast to the 20-point win.

“Bethlehem is a top-three team in this region, but I thought they could have been beaten that night,” Burkhead said. They looked a little flat and we looked just as flat as they did. We can’t be flat when we play teams like that.”

Marshall led all scorers with 19 points, as senior Markuise Stateman and Pettus added six each for the Commanders. Rogers was the top scorer for Bethlehem with 18.

Washington County vs. Crittenden County
58-55 Washington County
When: Saturday, Dec. 29
Where: LaRue County High School
Key players: WCHS – Alex Marshall, Morgan Churchill
Game highlights: After a sluggish 0-4 start to this year’s holiday tournaments, Washington County bounced back on the final two days of the National Guard Holiday Classic in LaRue County for a pair of close wins. They left the final day of the tournament (Dec. 29) with a three-point win over Crittenden County (8-8), showing a knack for pulling out close games and improving their record to 4-2 in games decided by seven points or less.

The Commanders got off to a blazing start, 16-2 after the first quarter, and kept the momentum going with an 11-point lead, 25-14, at halftime.

Marshall again had a big hand in the quick WC start on his way to a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds.

Crittenden County tried to creep back into the game in the second half, trimming the WC lead to eight entering the fourth quarter, and they were able to pull within three late, but the Commanders hit enough free throws to hang on the for the win. Burkhead spoke highly of Stateman’s play leading the offense, dishing out four assists and picking up three steals, while committing just two turnovers.

“Stateman played probably his best game as a point guard against Crittenden County,” Burkhead said. “We were without Thomas Pettus and (freshman) Justin Shelton stepped up and had a big ball game.”

Junior Morgan Churchill had nine points and three rebounds for Washington County, and Shelton added seven points.

Washington County vs. Thomas Nelson
61-57 Washington County
When: Friday, Dec. 28
Where: LaRue County High School
Key players: WCHS - Alex Marshall, Jared Young
Game highlights: The Commanders met up with district-foe Thomas Nelson (2-15) to earn a meeting with Crittenden County the following day, and again WC came out on top in a tight contest.

“Against Thomas Nelson, our defense played really well,” Burkhead said. “Everybody played well. Markuise (Stateman) is getting more comfortable at the point and Jared Young really started playing well.”

Washington County dug itself an early hole, trailing 12-6 after the first quarter, but they quickly righted the ship to cut the deficit to two points going into halftime.

Behind a team-high 22 points from Marshall, WC took the lead in the third quarter, outscoring the Generals 19-12 to take a 36-31 lead entering the fourth.

Both teams unleashed the offenses in the fourth quarter, as both teams topped the 25-point mark in the final period, but Washington County was able to knock down crucial free throws down the stretch to put away the victory.

After Marshall’s 22 points and seven rebounds, Pettus added 13 points with three steals, but struggled from three-point range (1-of-11). Young pitched in with eight points and eight rebounds.

Washington County visited Nelson County on Tuesday after press time and game info will available in next week’s issue of The Sun. The Commanders host Green County on Monday at 6 p.m. in the first round of the 5th Region All-A Classic.