January 9, 2014

Prep basketball: Johnson's shot lifts Murray County girls over Christian Heritage

Right down to Wednesday’s final play, Murray County High School’s girls basketball team gave coach Michael Hill plenty to correct the next time they take the practice court.

Despite losing a non-region battle that was tight from start to finish — in the midst of a season where the defeats are mounting — Christian Heritage coach Heather Lowery couldn’t help but see the Lady Lions’ effort as a step forward.

But the Lady Indians made the most of their last opportunity with the ball, and thanks to junior guard Alex Johnson, they were the ones celebrating in Chatsworth.

Johnson’s buzzer-beating, game-winning shot — a 5-footer in the middle of the lane — lifted the Lady Indians to a 51-50 victory, giving Murray County two wins in a row to start the season’s second half.

“It was great,” Hill said of Johnson’s shot. “She’s usually one of my defensive specialists, so it was real big for her.”

Johnson made the biggest shot in a game in which the score was tied at each of the quarter breaks — at 12, 27 and 36 points — and the Lady Indians (5-11) showed some of the rust that came with several days off the court because of cold weather that closed Murray County Schools.

“It wasn’t pretty,” Hill said.

It wasn’t easy, either. Hill said the Lady Indians surged to an eight-point lead in the fourth quarter, but turnovers and a few clutch shots helped the Lady Lions (2-13) keep their hosts from pulling away.

With Murray County leading by two points in the final minute, Christian Heritage junior post Sarah Massengale caught a pass inside and scored, drawing a foul in the process. She made the shot for a one-point edge with a little more than nine seconds remaining.

The Lady Indians moved the ball down the court, though, and Johnson put up a shot that found the net — eventually.

“We went the length of the court and fumbled the ball around a little bit,” Hill said. “But we slung it up there and it went in.”

Said Lowery, “They just threw it up and it went in. It kind of rolled around the rim — it’s one of those things you dream about not happening.”

Caitlyn Sims had 22 points to lead Murray County, while McKenzie Carroll had seven points and five assists and Catlyn Richardson grabbed 11 rebounds.

For Christian Heritage, Massengale finished with 28 points, 17 rebounds and five steals in what Lowery said was an “unreal” performance. Pressley Poag, who made a late 3-pointer to keep the Lady Lions in the game, chipped in nine points and four rebounds, while Julia McDonald added eight points.

Lowery said she “couldn’t ask for better” from her team, which lost to the Lady Indians by 24 points earlier this season.

“We’re playing so much better right now,” she said.

Despite some mistakes, Hill was happy to get the win and perhaps a bit of momentum for the remainder of the season.

“It’s two in a row, so hopefully we can get something started right here,” he said. “... I know tonight things weren’t going our way, but we kept battling through and still came out with a ‘W.’”

Murray County boys 38, Morris Innovative 22: The Indians picked up their second Region 7-2A victory of the season behind a 16-point effort by Cesar Romero, who led all scorers.

He was one of eight players who found the basket for Murray County (2-13, 2-6), which led 17-6 after the first quarter, 19-12 at halftime and 29-19 entering the final period.

“We did a good job pressuring the basketball tonight and creating turnovers,” Murray County coach Greg Linder said. “We’ve got to do a better job converting those into points. It was an ugly win, but a win’s a win.”

Jaleel Brown had six points to lead Morris Innovative (0-14, 0-8).

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