By Thomas Sellers Jr.
Opening night in Munford started with a weird vibe.
Memphis Metro arrived to the Munford Gymnasium with a few less players on its roster. Munford took to the court with a full array of Cougars. Meanwhile Memphis Metro warmed up with just six players in uniform.
Those six players were eager to take charge in the game racing to the rim. But the Eagles bulldozing style of attacking the paint was part of their doom with two players fouling out.
The Cougars taking charges from Eagle players and solid play in the fourth quarter led to a 56-49 win.
“Win is a win and we’ll take it,” Munford Head Coach Ryan Ross said. “We had a couple of upperclassmen tonight who pressed a little too much. A little of first-game jitters because of that. They’re both seniors who are really good players but they tried to do a little too much in that first game of their senior year.
“Instead of just letting things come to them,” he continued, “13 turnovers in that first half was the story of first half. That’s not us. We really value taking care of the ball and we’re going to get that correct. All of those turnovers were us trying to do a little to much.”
Things started well for Munford in the first quarter jumping out to a 14-7 advantage. Cougars Patrick Smith, Montel Miller and Landon Winter scored to build the 7-point advantage. Winter drained a three-pointer to make the score 14-7.
The Eagles closed the opening quarter with a 7-0 run to deadlock the contest at 14-14. Memphis Metro kept its hot streak going scoring the first 4 points of the second quarter. Memphis Metro outscored Munford 14-10 in the period to lead 28-24 at halftime.
Throughout the first half the Eagle players were racking up offensive fouls leading to concerns on their already thin bench. Before the second quarter concluded Martavius Curtis was disqualified because of fouls.
“As we calmed down even before they went down to four, we started scoring pretty well,” Ross said. “I give them a lot of credit. They are talented. They might be the most talented home-schooled team I’ve ever seen.
“Unfortunately they had to finish with four,” he added. “But our guys stood in there and took hit after hit after hit. That’s something we take pride in. You put your head down and drive in there, we’re going to take that hit every time. To our guys’ credit we got in there and got them into foul trouble.”
At the 2:55 mark of the third quarter the Eagles had their second player foul out. The final 10 minutes and 55 seconds Memphis Metro had to play with four players.
The Cougars quickly grabbed the lead at 37-36. Miller added to Munford’s advantage 41-36 with a layup at the end of the third quarter.
The Cougars created some separation in the fourth quarter when Miller hit a three-pointer and Winter canned a triple to make the tally 47-40.
Down the stretch the defense and offense of Kelen Ivy iced the victory. The senior forward blocked a pair of Eagle shots and scored on two layups to make the final 56-49.
“Really pride of Kelen for his performance today,” Ross said. “He had the stomach flu today. He was not near 100 percent and he gutted it out and gave us some good minutes. Deon and Pat got into foul trouble. They got a little frustrated.
“But in the fourth quarter they settled down and let the game come to them,” he concluded. “We got some good plays. We don’t have any guys on the floor you can not just guard. You have to guard the five out there on the floor. If we let the game come to us, we’re going to get good stuff. I’m proud of our guys for pushing through.”