Commanders snap skid, climb in final district standings

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By Brandon Mattingly

Washington County vs. Hart Co. (senior night)
61-48 Washington County
When: Monday, Feb. 11
Where: Washington County High School
Key players: WCHS - Alex Marshall HCHS - Steven Green
Game highlights: The Washington County boys (6-19) held senior night on Monday against Hart County (10-16), beating the Raiders 61-48. The win won’t be the last time WC is on its home floor though, as the Commanders and Commanderettes will be hosting the 19th District tournament next week.

The Commanders and Raiders battled back and forth for three quarters on Monday night, but WC took over at the end of the game.

Hart Co. held a 15-13 lead through one quarter, as each team moved the ball and got scoring from five players in the opening period.

WC fought back for a one-point lead at halftime, which they extended to 40-38 after three quarters, but then the Commanders got breathing room.

Led by junior Thomas Pettus’ 10-point fourth quarter, Washington County pulled out to a six-point lead with a minute to play and knocked down 8-of-10 at the line down the stretch to seal the victory.

Pettus led all scorers with 18 points, followed by senior Alex Marshall’s 11 and junior Jared Young with eight points and 11 rebounds.

Washington County vs. Thomas Nelson
67-65 Washington County
When: Friday, Feb. 8
Where: Washington County High School
Key players: WCHS - Alex Marshall, Morgan Churchill TNHS - Cameron Morgeson
Game highlights: The Commanders appeared to have a big district matchup with Thomas Nelson (4-22) under control with 54 seconds left and a 10-point lead on Friday night at home, but the Generals, led by sophomore Cameron Morgeson’s 42 points, came roaring back to tie the game late.

Marshall, who led the way for Washington County with 28 points, preserved a 67-65 WC victory, however, with a pair of late free throws. The win snapped a 10-game losing streak and earned Washington County the district’s third seed and a first-round bye.

“That was a huge win for these kids,” said Washington County Head Coach Russell Burkhead. “We do need to find a way to finish out ball games better, but maybe we’ll be able to learn from that.”

WC was up 62-52 with 54 seconds remaining in the game and hadn’t trailed since midway through the second quarter, but that’s when Thomas Nelson got a spark from a Morgeson jumper and a foul. He followed that with another three-point play on the following possession after a pair of Pettus free throws to make the score 64-58.

Washington County was called for pushing off on the ensuing inbounds play, which led to a three-pointer from Generals’ junior Christopher Woodson to cut the lead to three with 30 seconds left. Morgeson knocked down a pair of free throws following a 1-for-2 trip at the line for the Commanders, then came up with a steal to give his team a shot to tie the game. His layup attempt was off the mark, but Woodson found the rebound and was sent to the free-throw line, where he knocked down both shots to tie the game at 65 with 10.6 seconds to play.

The Generals, who were over the foul limit, then made a costly mistake with nine seconds left, fouling Marshall on the throw-in. Marshall knocked down both free throws, but Thomas Nelson had one final chance.

After being unable to get an open look and calling a timeout with 1.5 seconds left, the Generals got the ball to freshman Jake Clark, who fired a deep three attempt for the win that nearly banked in, but it rattled out, allowing WC to hang on for a 3-5 finish in district play.

The Commanders led much of the game, but weathered a flurry of Thomas Nelson threes in the second quarter, falling behind 20-15. WC quickly settled down, forcing the Generals into contested outside looks to finish the half on a 19-9 run.

“I told my team, ‘hey, they’ve hit eight or nine threes in the first half and we still have a five-point lead,’” Burkhead said of his halftime talk with his team. “Hitting that run and getting that momentum before halftime was really huge."

After Marshall’s 28 points and nine rebounds, Churchill added 16 points and five boards, followed by Stateman with nine points.

Washington County @ Campbellsville
58-56 Campbellsville
When: Friday, Feb. 8
Where: Campbellsville High School
Key players: WCHS - Alex Marshall
Game highlights: Washington County found itself in yet another overtime game at Campbellsville (12-14) last Thursday, but were unable to pull out the road win, dropping a 58-56 decision.

Marshall was the lone Commander in double figures with 15 points and seven boards. Pettus added nine points, while Stateman pitched in with seven points and three steals in a losing effort.

Neither team got much breathing room throughout the game, with Washington County trimming the Eagles’ five-point first-quarter lead to two points at halftime. WC trailed 29-26 entering the fourth quarter, but was able to close the gap and found themselves in front by two points with two seconds left in regulation. A questionable foul called against the Commanders as a Campbellsville player lost his footing on the inbound pass sent the game to overtime with a pair of Eagle free throws, however.

“I never put a win or a loss on a referee, but I felt like we left there that night that the game was taken from us,” Burkhead said. “Especially after watching the film, it wasn’t even close. You have to give Campbellsville a lot of credit, though. Nobody expected them to have 12 wins at this point in the year.”

Washington County was unable to recover in the overtime period on their way to their third close loss to the Eagles this season.

Washington County vs. Taylor County
61-33 Taylor County
When: Tuesday, Feb. 5
Where: Taylor County High School
Key players: WCHS - Alex Marshall TCHS - Quentin Goodin
Game highlights: WC was at Taylor County (13-13) last Tuesday, falling to the Cardinals 61-33 in a game that got away in the second quarter.

The Commanders found themselves trailing 13-7 after one quarter of play, but saw that deficit balloon to 19 points by halftime thanks to a 16-3 second quarter in favor of Taylor County.

“I’m going to take the blame for that,” Burkhead said. “These kids weren’t ready because I didn’t have them ready and we went over there that night and didn’t shoot well or do some things rights, because I didn’t get them ready to play.”

The Cardinals coasted to a comfortable win in the second half, earning their second victory over the Commanders on the season.

Marshall led WC with 10 points and four rebounds. Stateman had a pair of steals for the Commanders.

WC visited LaRue County on Tuesday night after press time and will travel to Fort Knox (8-14) on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. to take on the Eagles to close out the regular season. Washington County will open district tournament play with a second-round matchup with Bethlehem (21-4) on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at WCHS.