By: Jim Steele
McKenzie's game with Natchez Trace Youth Academy Friday afternoon had pivotal post-season implications.
The Rebels, in order to keep pace with Huntingdon, as well as their hopes for a District 11A top seed, needed a victory over a Trailblazer team that had shown lots of improvement since their last meeting. They didn't disappoint.
McKenzie employed a baseline-to-baseline game plan, contested shots, controlled the boards and came away with a 72-44 victory over NTYA. The victory improves the Rebels to 20-5 overall, 11-1 in the district, setting up Tuesday night's showdown for the top seed with Huntingdon.
The Rebels forced the issue from the start and rolled to a 17-3 lead and never looked back. McKenzie asserted itself with full-court pressure and dominance on the boards. For some, Big Ben may be a tourist attraction in London. In McKenzie circles, that may refer to Rebel center Ben Austin, who was a load inside. He scored 10 points and pulled down eight rebounds in the first quarter alone. For the game, he led the Rebels with 16 points and 15 boards, eight of which were offensive.
At the end of one, the Rebels held a 21-6 lead and kept pouring on the steam. The Trailblazers landed a pair of triples, however, the Rebels pushed the lead to 22. McKenzie outrebounded Natchez Trace 28-9 in the first half and hit 12-of-15 free throws. At the half, McKenzie led 38-18. In the third, the Rebels pushed the lead to 32 on Nate Whitsell's run out, 52-20. The Rebels were able to play many of their understudies in the fourth.
McKenzie outrebounded the Trailblazers 48-27 for the game and it was 21-35 from the free throw line. Micah Austin had 14 points for the Rebs. Chase Colotta came off the bench to score seven.
Marquis Cole led Natchez Trace with 15 points. The Trailblazers were 6-19 from the line.
McKenzie has won 10 of its last 11 games and hosts Bradford Saturday night. The Lady Rebels will start things off with a 5 p.m. tip, immediately followed by the boys' game.