Despite not having its best second-half defense, North Murray’s boys basketball team had an equalizer in Zach Vess.
The senior scored 35 points in the Mountaineers 70-62 victory against Ridgeland on Thursday in the first round of LaFayette’s Comcast Christmas Classic tournament. In other games in the event, North Murray’s girls beat Ridgeland 45-26, Dalton’s boys beat Chattooga 94-73 and Northwest Whitfield’s girls lost 69-52 to Calhoun.
North Murray (10-1) led 18-12 after the first quarter, 32-24 at halftime and 47-39 heading into the final period. The Panthers scored as many in the final quarter as they did through the entire first half and climbed back into the game after trailing by as much as 15 earlier in the contest.
“I wasn’t real happy with our defense,” Mountaineers coach Tim Ellis said, “but a win is a win. ... We had a little bit of a struggle to score. They hit some good shots and we struggled to contain the ball. So they got back in it.”
Drew Mosteller added 15 points, combining with Vess for around 80 percent of North Murray’s scoring. Brady Swilling chipped in with 12. Ellis did not know how many rebounds Vess collected, but he felt pretty confident his star had another double-double performance.
“It’s a quick turnaround,” he said.
“We had one day of practice and came out here to play. ... I’ll take an ugly win over a pretty loss any day. We battled. We didn’t shoot it well, but Zach was a force on the boards and we got it to him. In the second half we attacked the basket better.”
The Mountaineers face Coosa at 5:30 p.m. today in the second round.
n North Murray girls 45, Ridgeland girls 26: Abigail Bradley led the Lady Mountaineers with nine points, while Megan Spivey added eight points and Hannah Hensley and Erin Robinson each tallied seven.
Lady Mountaineers (10-3) coach Keith Robinette wasn’t the happiest with how his team played, despite the score difference and responding after the loss in the Mistletoe Madness championship.
“We didn’t play very well today,” he said.
“We didn’t execute the way I wanted to. We need to shoot free throws better. Anytime you hold a team to 26 points, you think, ‘We played really good defense,’ but we had some breakdowns at some points.”
North Murray gets a rematch with Calhoun, the team it lost the Mistletoe Madness title game to. The two play at 7 p.m. today.
n Dalton boys 94, Chattooga 73: Brandon Painter and Rico Mears led the Catamounts (8-2) with 17 points each. Demond Rucker tallied 15 points and Emier Bowman added 12 points.
Dalton led 23-14 after the first quarter, 56-38 at halftime and 75-56 after three periods. The Cats went 15 of 17 from the free-throw line in the second quarter and 28 of 39 for the game.
“So many people scored,” Dalton coach Mike Duffie said. “Alex (Bautista) is our leading scorer, and he only scored nine. I liked our scoring in transition and how we did from the free-throw line.”
Dalton faces the LaFayette-Calhoun winner at 8:30 p.m. today.
n Calhoun girls 69, Northwest 52: Halle Ford had 17 points to lead the Lady Bruins (7-5) while Autumn Blackwell chipped in 13.
Northwest trailed 27-25 at halftime, but trailed 69-33 after three quarters after the Lady Yellow Jackets made six 3-pointers.
“The third quarter was the difference in the game,” Lady Bruins coach Greg Brown said.
The Lady Bruins play at 1 p.m. today against Ridgeland.
n North Forsyth girls 70, Murray County 25: McKenzie Carroll led the Lady Indians (4-7) with 10 points against their Class 5A opponents in the Pickens Holiday Classic.
The round-robin event continues today with Murray County playing Collins Hill, a Class 6A school.
Lady Indians coach Michael Hill hopes his team grows due to the competitive field.
“That’s what I’m hoping for, for the gompetition to make us better. As soon as we get back after the new year, we’re in the thick of our region,” Hill said.