Purple Tigers rally past short-handed Central

Mt. Juliets Osize Daniyan shoots over Lebanon’s Yarin Alexander from the baseline during the first quarter.

WATERTOWN — Neither team was at full strength, but Watertown closed out a 65-62 win over Wilson Central on the power play Saturday afternoon.

Only seven Wildcats were available for the game and three were fouled out, leaving just four on the floor for the final 25.6 seconds as Watertown rallied.

Gavin Clayborne connected on two free throws with 20.6 seconds left to put Watertown in front 63-62 and two more for insurance with 11.8 ticks as the Purple Tigers, playing for the first time in eight days since their first loss of the season, at DeKalb County, before having two rescheduled games canceled during the week due to COVID, improved to 7-1 going into a two-week Wilson County Schools-mandated break from competition.

Wilson Central, which was without leading scorer Adler Kerr (who injured his ankle last Tuesday against Station Camp) and several others who were also unavailable, overcame a 17-11 first-quarter deficit to lead 35-25 late in the second quarter. The Wildcats carried a 35-27 lead into halftime before the Purple Tigers trimmed the margin during the third quarter. Ian Fryer beat the third-quarter buzzer with a layup to bring Watertown within 45-41.

“Started out in the first quarter, played real well,” Watertown coach Matt Bradshaw said. “Kind of got in a little bit of foul trouble in the second quarter. We tend to back off and not do some things as far as being reactive as we need to do. They came out in the second quarter and made some shots in the corner, burned us on a couple of plays underneath, just lapses on defenses. We came back in and talked about it at halftime. Where we changed from what we didn’t do Friday night (at DeKalb), we didn’t panic. At DeKalb we got down and we panicked. We didn’t do that tonight.”

“We were a little short-handed,” Wildcats coach Michael Teeter said. “We had our opportunities. Got to give them a lot of credit. They came down and shot some big layups there at the end because we didn’t want to guard anybody.

“Might have been the most fouls in a game I’ve ever seen. But a one- or a three-point game at the end, that’s typically not coming down on the officials. There are a lot of plays over the course of a game that can make a difference in that. We didn’t shoot free throws well down the stretch. We had a lot of opportunities to ice the game and didn’t take advantage of it. First time in my career I’ve finished a game with four players on the floor, and we were really close to going to three. Going into our bag of tricks, we really didn’t have any plays for four people. We were looking in the stands for people willing to come play for us. We’d have done eligibility on the spot.”

A three-pointer by Eli Scarlett midway through the fourth quarter pulled the Purple Tigers into a 52-52 tie. A driving layup by Clayborne put Watertown in front by two before a putback by Central center Damion Fayne knotted the score at 54-54. A two-handed tip-in by Fayne put Central back in front and a three-pointer by Sam Elrod made it 59-54 in favor of the visitors with 2:20 to play.

Central twice led by six but the fouls began piling up. Fayne fouled out with a minute to play Clayborne converted a transition layup into a three-point play as Dakota Boudacious fouled out with 32.1 seconds left, pulling the Purple Tigers within 62-21.

“They missed some free throws down the stretch and Gavin did a great job in the fourth quarter,” Bradshaw said. “Free throws were what was the difference in the ballgame.”

Scarlett sank four triples in leading Watertown with 23 points while Clayborne connected on all 12 of his free throws on his way to 18, 16 of which came in the fourth quarter. Brayden Cousino collected nine points, Brady Raines six, Fryer five and Kier Priest four. Center Quanterrius Hughes-Malone missed the contest due to a death in the family.

Point guard Zack Markus keyed the ‘Cats second-quarter uprising with 12 of his team-high 21 points, including half of his four triples. Fayne finished with 16 while Riggan racked up 10, including a pair of threes. Hunter Scurlock, who transferred from Lebanon a year ago, became eligible Saturday, just in time to score nine. Elrod added two treys for his six as Central slipped to 4-6 going into the shutdown. The Wildcats learned Wednesday their Friday game with Gallatin was off due to COVID issues with the Green Wave, giving Central a District 9-AAA forfeit win and a 3-2 league mark going into the break.

“Definitely was something I had planned,” said Bradshaw, who saw the

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