By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Munford Cougars Head Coach Butch Hopkins warned minutes before tip off Friday night his team needed to play focused to avoid an upset.
Hopkins noted the visiting Jackson-Central Merry Cougars were a gritty and hard-fighting team despite their losing record. And JCM proved it taking a 14-13 lead after one quarter.
The host Cougars were able to head into the locker room ahead 26-24 behind the timely shooting of guard Juane Tolton. Then the Munford backcourt featuring Tolton, David Hunter and point guard Reggie Holmes sparked the Cougars to a big second half leading to a 54-42 victory.
“We knew they were going to come hard at us in the second half,” Tolton said. “We knew if we just match their intensity we were going to pick up our pace.”
The host Cougars picked up the pace going to senior big man Andrea’ Bell in the post for a bucket to make the Munford Gymnasium scoreboard read 28-24. Munford outscored JCM 20-6 most of the third quarter.
One of the highlights for Munford was a Holmes alley-oop pass leading to a Tolton layup making the tally 33-26.
Seconds later Munford forward Kylon Hall made a reverse layup to make the score 35-26. The Cougars’ lead reached double-digits when Hall made another layup. Holmes followed with a layin to make the score 39-26.
By the time Hall hit a jumper at the elbow of the paint, Munford was ahead 46-30.
JCM made a rally at the end of the third quarter outscoring the Cougars 6-2 to trail 48-36.
In the fourth quarter Munford’s defense smothered JCM limiting the Cougars to 6 points. With Holmes controling the tempo on both ends, the sophomore guard was able to locate Hall for a jumper and a dunk to maintain the 12-point advantage to the final second.
Tolton noted it was team play including the backcourt making shots early that allowed Munford’s offense to flow.
“It very important we pick up our pace because that’s how we get our offense going with Reggie, David and me,” he noted. “That’s how we get the ball inside. We can be real good and we have the potential to go all the way to State.”