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BOYS BASKETBALL: Cooper scores 15 as Indians stay hot in 7-AA

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Boys Basketball: Armuchee at Pepperell

Armuchee's Chad Wilson wrestles control of the ball away from Pepperell's Andy Dodd at Pepperell High, February 1, 2013. (Brittany Hannah/RN-T)

Brittany Hannah

It’s officially crunch time now — with only one week remaining in the regular season — and this is the time that teams want to start building momentum for the region tournament.

The Armuchee boys are doing just that.

The Indians traveled to Lindale on Friday to take on cross-town rival Pepperell, and they continued their late season hot streak by downing the Dragons, 58-53.

Armuchee has now won three of its past four games while Pepperell suffered its sixth straight region loss.

“It was a hard fought game,” said Armuchee coach Ray Tucker. “We needed that and it’s good for our kids.”

The Indians (6-15, 3-9) hit nine 3s in the victory with senior Chase Cooper leading the way. Cooper hit four 3s and scored a team-high 15 points.

Cooper said the Indians aren’t worried about their record, but instead just want to continue their strong play.

“Coach Tucker has been telling us all year to work for February and that’s what we’ve been doing all season,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how we started the season, it’s how we finish.”

Armuchee only had five players reach the scoring column, but that was all they needed.

Jacob Booke finished with 13, Jonathan Mason and Clay Barnett each scored 12, and Chad Wilson had six.

“Chase had a real fine game for us, and our two sophomore post up guys (Booke and Barnett) had two or three real big chores inside and they handled it pretty well,” said Tucker.

The Indians have seen late leads slip away from them several times season, but they refused to let this one get away.

Cooper said the Indians have been keeping their heads in the game, and that has been the leading factor to this late season charge.

“We haven’t been losing our composure late in the fourth quarter lately and that’s the main thing,” Cooper said. “After losing a close one in overtime (to Pepperell) last time, we really wanted to come out and get this one.”

That determination showed from the tip-off until the final seconds for the Indians.

Armuchee led for most of the game, including the entire fourth quarter, and when they did trail it was never by more than three points.

Darrius Fugh came off the bench to lead the Dragons (7-12, 4-7) with a game-high 20 points, while Andy Dodd and Alex Rickman each contributed 12 in the loss.

Armuchee jumped out to a 17-11 lead after the first, only to see Pepperell trim the lead to 26-25 at the half after Fugh connected for one of his three 3 pointers on the night to give the Dragons little momentum.

Pepperell took a 37-34 lead midway through the third quarter and seemed to have found its rhythm, but the Indians did not let the lead last long. Armcuhee used an 11-2 run to end the quarter with a 45-40 lead.

Mason ended the quarter with a 3-pointer from about seven feet beyond the three-point line to give the Indians the lead and also give the Armuchee fans another jolt of energy.

The energy carried over into the final frame, and, as Cooper said, the Indians never lost their composure.

Armuchee maintained a slim lead throughout the final quarter, and Pepperell trimmed it to just three points in the final minute, but the Indians were able to hang on.

The Indians are currently in seventh place in the 7-AA standings, with two games remaining. Armuchee will host Coosa on Tuesday and Calhoun, the No. 1 team in 7-AA, on Friday, with hopes of continuing their charge before the region tourney.

“This week we’ve managed to be able to get all the way to the end and be the winner,” said Tucker. “So maybe we’re starting to understand it and get a feel for it.”