By: Jim Steele
McKenzie's boys minted an 11-0 run early in the first frame to give themselves some distance against West Carroll in the District 11A semifinals, and came away with a 70-48 victory Tuesday night at Bethel's Crisp Arena.
The victory was McKenzie's 22nd of the season, lands it in the District 11A championship against Huntingdon and, most importantly, ensures that the Rebels host a Region 6A quarterfinal game next Saturday night, Feb. 24. Defense and rebounding were big keys for the Rebel victory.
West Carroll's post standout Zach Heckert was saddled with two first-quarter fouls, which gave the Rebels carte blanche access to the paint. McKenzie turned a 6-4 deficit to a 15-6 first-quarter lead as a result. McKenzie's Lazarick Hill and Ben Austin went to work inside, Tyler Spivey connected from the three-point line and the Rebels led 20-7 heading into the second frame.
West Carroll's Carson Lee Robinson got hot in the second frame and put together a 7-0 run mid way. The War Eagles went from 35-11 down to 35-18. Missed free throws hurt West Carroll and the Rebels led 39-18 at the break.
The Rebels began to make things look easy in the third. They attacked the middle and scored almost uncontested. Ben Austin and Whitsell found success inside and it was contagious. Lucas King and Hill drove and scored and the Rebels held a 61-28 advantage.
West Carroll, however, found a spark late in the third and early in the fourth. The War Eagles, behind Jeremiah Bryant, and Tyson Keymon's three balls, and the inside play from Heckert, enjoyed a 15-0 run and cut the Rebel lead to 20, 61-41. Ben Austin stopped the leak with his stickback, but Keymon drilled a three to cut the lead to 17, 63-46. Micah Austin responded with a three-point play to boost the Rebel advantage back to 20, 66-46.
With under three minutes to play, the Rebels let the air out of the ball and played keep away.
Heckert led the War Eagles with 13 points, followed by Bryant with 10 and Robinson with eight. Ben Austin was tops for the Rebels with 19 points. Whitsell score 12, King and Micah Austin had 10 each and Spivey had nine.
The Rebels will be playing in their sixth straight district championship.