Tigers keep Panthers at bay

Published 5:15 pm Friday, December 19, 2008

Solid free throw shooting down the stretch helped McKenzie secure a 55-50 win over Excel on Tuesday for their first win of the year.

“I’m very proud of the team and how they played,” said head coach Miles Brown. “It’s good to get a home win. I felt like we’ve played extremely hard in some earlier games and come out short.”

McKenzie held a slim 46-45 lead with less than three minutes to play, and they stretched the lead to 50-46.

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With just over a minute left to go in the game, Calvin Henderson hit two free throws to make the lead 52-46.

Cliff Pugh also came up big at the line, hitting three of four free throws in the last 30 second of the game to put it on ice.

Pugh finished the game with 13 points, including 5-8 shooting from the free throw line.

The Tigers also got a big game from Emmanuel Johnson, who scored 19 points.

“Emmanuel is starting to learn his role and take the ball to the basket,” Brown said.

Excel got off to a quick start in the game, jumping out to an 11-5 lead at the end of the first quarter.

McKenzie then began to slow the tempo down, holding the ball near halfcourt on offensive possessions for as much as 30 seconds before starting a play.

“We just had to slow Excel down,” Brown said. “We stalled a little bit to get the tempo down and let us catch our breath.”

McKenzie also cranked up the defensive pressure, showing an aggressive halfcourt trap.

The two tactics worked as the Tigers gained a 21-19 lead on a shot by Johnson.

However, Excel led 27-24 at the half.

The rest of the game was nip and tuck, but the Tigers used an old-fashioned three point play from Pugh and a tip-in by Johnson just as the quarter expired to lead 40-35 heading into the final period.

Against W.S. Neal on Monday night, the Tigers fell 67-34.

Johnson was also the leading scorer in that game, putting up 12 points.