The Gordon Central boys followed the same pattern in the first and second half on Thursday in their non-region home contest against Murray County. They dug themselves holes to trail the Indians by substantial margins, and then fought back to get right back in the game.
But Murray County made the final push, going on a 15-0 run after the game was tied at 50-50 with just less than five minutes left in the fourth quarter to send the Warriors to a 65-53 loss. Gordon Central (0-10) came out of the gates slow and trailed by as many as 20 in the second quarter before pulling within six at the half. They then fell behind by eight late in the third quarter but rallied to tie it in the fourth prior to the Indians making their game-deciding surge.
Gordon Central coach Derrick Broom said he was pleased with how his team came back strong multiple times in the game, but he is still trying to figure out how to get them to play with that same attitude and intensity from start to finish.
“That is the million-dollar question,” said Broom. “I always tell them that the first few minutes of the game predicts how it will probably go, and it really could’ve gotten ugly there in the first half. But I was proud of the effort and energy we had once we showed up and started playing to get back in the game. And we were right there in the fourth quarter too but just couldn’t keep it going. That’s the big thing I’m still trying to figure out with this team. We’ve got to come out and play a full 32 minutes with full effort and intensity rather than just when our back is against the wall.”
The Warriors stayed within striking distance through the first quarter as they trailed 17-10 going to the second. Murray County took control of the game briefly in the second quarter, stringing together a 12-0 and 15-2 run to take a 34-14 lead midway through the period. Gordon Central didn’t go away, however, and answered by reeling off a 15-1 spurt to end the first half trailing 35-29.
The teams traded big buckets to start the second half, and once again the Warriors refused to fold as they trailed 48-42 at the end of the third quarter. They finally evened the game up at 50-50 with 4:56 left in the fourth thanks to a basket by Quan Curtis, who led the team with 16 points on the night. However, Murray County grabbed the momentum immediately after that thanks to a 3-pointer by Lincoln Puryear to start a 15-0 run that decided the game. Haden Newport also had a big 3 in the stretch, and Puryear added another to go along with a 6-of-9 stretch at the free throw line.
“It was a tough way to end the game,” said Broom. “Basketball is a game of runs, and it’s about which team is able to stop the other team’s run and start one of their own. We did that multiple times tonight, but once we got it tied in the fourth, we had some mental lapses on defense to give up open shots. It boiled down to that and free throws for us. We didn’t make them and that really decided the game.”
Gordon Central struggled at the charity stripe all night, finishing 6-of-29.
Along with the 16 from Curtis, Turner Mathis (14) and Dawson Lackey (10) also finished in double figures for the Warriors. Cade Vice had a game-high 25, including five 3s, to lead Murray County. Newport added 17 for the Indians, and Puryear scored 11.
Despite the loss, Broom said he sees that his team is headed in a positive direction and they will keep working to break into the win column and have a successful second half of the season.
“We’ve still got a long way to go, and we’ve got to improve every game and every practice,” said Broom. “Our guys that keep putting in the work at practice will get better, and we’re going to get there. I know one thing about these guys is they are not going to quit. We are going to be a tough team come region tournament time.”
The Warriors host Coosa on Tuesday for a Region 7-AA contest at 5:30 p.m. They visit Pepperell on Friday at 8:30 p.m.
In the Gordon Central-Murray County girls’ game earlier on Thursday:
Murray County girls 49, Gordon Central 42
Gordon Central got 32 points from Mercedes Coleman, but the Lady Indians had enough to earn a non-region road win.
The Lady Warriors (4-5) battled back from a 10-point deficit at the end of the third quarter to pull within two at 42-40 right around the 2:00 mark of the fourth, but Murray County nailed 7-of-8 free throws down the stretch to seal the victory. Coleman scored 12 of her 32 in the fourth as she tried to help lead her team back. No other Gordon Central player scored more than three points in the contest.
Murray County’s Alison Weaver had 23, including five 3s, to lead the way for the Lady Indians.
Gordon Central moves back into region play on Tuesday when they host Coosa at 4 p.m. They are at Pepperell on Friday at 7 p.m.