By: Jim Steele
McKENZIE, Tenn. - McKenzie was left for dead in the fourth quarter of its middle school basketball game with Huntingdon Thursday night.
Huntingdon went on a 12-2 run and a 33-21 lead with just over two minutes to play when the Rebels came charging back to make it close. However, the run came too little, too late and the Mustangs came away with a 33-31 victory over McKenzie.
The Rebels fell behind by five, 21-16, with 2:11 to play in the third when Paul Watkins drained a triple with 1:36 to left. McKenzie drew within two, 21-19, which animated the large crowd. But the Mustangs went on a 12-2 run, led by the hot hands of Tylan Johnson and Macon Bullock. With 2:50 left, the Mustangs held a 33-21 advantage.
But the Rebels came surging back. McKenzie forced the issue underneath the bucket and it paid off. The Rebels were 5-6 from the stripe in the final 2:03. Chase Kelly's three-point play with 1:07 to play, aided by Watkins' steal, cut the lead to two, 33-31.
The Mustangs turned the ball over and McKenzie had a chance with :35 to play, but was whistled for an offensive foul. McKenzie regained possession with 2.6 seconds, but Kelley's halfcourt shot at the buzzer fell well short.
McKenzie started strong, taking a 4-0 lead. The Mustangs rallied with nine unanswered to end the quarter. The Rebels remained in striking distance for much of the first half. Jack Surber's free throw with 2:16 to play in the second cut the lead to two, 13-11, but the Mustangs led 15-11 at the break.
Johnson led the Mustangs with 15 points, Jaden Williams had 10. Macon Bullock added three.
Watkins led the Rebels with 12, Kelley with nine, Surber with seven, Justin Pruitt and Bransen McCaleb with two each.
In the opener, McKenzie rushed to an 11-1 lead and claimed a 28-6 victory over visiting Huntingdon. The Lady Rebs extended their lead to 16-3 by halftime. McKenzie led 28-4 after three. Both teams played their reserves in the second half.
Infinity McClerkin led the Lady Rebels with 16 points. Emma McDaniel tossed in eight.
Allyn Swenson led the Fillies with four.
The Rebels are at West Carroll on Tuesday, then return home Thursday to face Hollow Rock-Bruceton Central.