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Tigers' greatest season ends in OT
Mar 14, 2013 4:15 pm
Free-throw misfires cost Watertown in state quarterfinals
By Andy Reed
MURFREESBORO — Watertown's 53-50 overtime loss in the Purple Tigers' first-ever BlueCross State Championships came down to one of the game's basic fundamentals – free-throw shooting.
The Tigers hit just 4 of 14 first-half free throws and finished 8-of-21, leaving several points on the floor despite leading by as much as nine points late in the half and the Falcons in serious foul trouble at Middle Tennessee State's Murphy Center.
Lake County opened the second half with a 15-2 run to take the lead. Watertown came back and had a shot to win in regulation before Josiah Smith's attempt was blocked by Justin Kimble with the score tied at 47-47.
Zay Coleman connected on four overtime free throws to finish his 16-point night and Devon Jones hit two more to cap a 22-point performance to send Lake County, a team hit by suspensions and forfeits, to the semifinals despite just a 9-23 record.
"We're a team, quite frankly, I thought we erased that because in the last 10-15 ballgames had shot 65-70 percent [from the line] as a team," Watertown coach Matt Bradshaw said after the Purple Tigers' best season in some 90 years of basketball ended at 30-4. "At the end of the day, their supporting cast played a little bit better than our supporting cast did tonight."
Watertown never trailed in the first half which saw the Purple Tigers lead by as much as 27-18 on a basket by backup center George Theragood, whose free throw in the final second staked his team to a 28-21 halftime lead.
But Lake County ripped off its 15-2 run to open the second half and the Tigers were in a battle the rest of the way.
"We did exactly what they wanted us to do and came down and jacked up a couple of quick threes," Bradshaw said. "They don't go in and they get out on the break and they're scoring layups in transition. We fouled the wrong guy [Coleman, who sank 6 of 9 from the stripe].
"They chipped it away on us doing some not-very-smart stuff, stuff we didn't do in the first half. We came down in the first half, worked the basketball around and scored in the paint."
"In the first half we had it at our pace and had it at our control," Watertown point guard Macieo Gaines said. "In the second half, we came out dead and they got the momentum and controlled the rest of the game."
"The first half wasn't the best game we've played," said Lake County coach Dawn Barger, whose team won the Class A championship two years ago and reached the semifinals last year. "We finally got out and got some transition points and cut the lead where it was manageable."
A layup by Theragood pulled the Purple Tigers into a 38-38 tie, which survived into the fourth quarter after Lake missed two from the line. Center Ben Bain drew the fifth foul on Rayshawn Flowers and converted a three-point play to break a 40-40 tie. Ty Jobe followed with a leaner off the glass for a five-point lead.
But Dominique Kimble connected on a three-pointer and a foul-line jumper in short order to re-even the game at 45-45.
The teams traded baskets before Watertown set up for a game-winning shot, which was blocked.
"They did a good job on defense," Bradshaw said. "We had the look we wanted. It just didn't go our way.
"I can't fault our kids. We had good looks, we just fell up a little short."
Jones added 11 rebounds to post a double-double for Lake County.
Bradshaw pointed to rebounding as a key statistic before the game and Watertown held the edge 46-41 as the 5-foot-8 Gaines grabbed 18 caroms to go with 16 points and five assists in his Tiger finale.
"We did a good job on that front," Bradshaw said. "Biggest thing is free-throw line. It's an entirely different ballgame in the first half if we just make our free throws."
"We just didn't focus and didn't knock them down," Gaines said. "We got a good practice at David Lipscomb Friday and Monday went to Tech and we didn't focus and knock them down. We work on it every day and it didn't fall."
Jobe got Watertown off to a good start with the first of his two three-pointers and finished with 12 points while the 6-4 Theragood came off the bench to muscle in 10. Smith finished with four points and seven rebounds while Bain and Ethan Moss each managed three and Jake Belcher two.
"After coming off an ankle injury and bad knee, I felt pretty good today," said Theragood, who moved to Watertown around Christmas time from Brentwood Academy, where he played basketball and football. He said he expects to sign with Western Kentucky soon as a defensive lineman. "Matchup-wise, I think I had the advantage. We just couldn't get the basketball down there and do what we wanted to do."
"I wouldn't say they're better than we are, but they did a good job of doing little things to win a basketball game that probably a team that's been to the State Tournament that's used to the environment and used to the situation," Bradshaw said. "Not that our kids aren't used to that situation. But in the second half when it got a little tight, we did some uncharacteristic mistakes."
Purple Tiger Nation was out in force in Murphy Center to watch Watertown's first-ever game in the round of eight in the school's century-plus history.
"The whole city was behind us; they came to support us," said Jobe, the lone junior among the top eight in the rotation. "We just didn't do what we were supposed to tonight. Thanks to them for coming and supporting us. They've been with us since Day 1."