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Flying squadron outguns Tigers

Senior Condie Pugh helped the McKenzie Tigers jump out to an early and commanding 26-9 lead over the Highland Home Flying Squadron, but a second-half slump sank the Tigers as the Squadron recovered and won 82-66.

Senior Condie Pugh helped the McKenzie Tigers jump out to an early and commanding 26-9 lead over the Highland Home Flying Squadron, but a second-half slump sank the Tigers as the Squadron recovered and won 82-66.

A perfect first-quarter performance and a 17-point lead wasn’t enough to save McKenzie as the Highland Home Flying Squadron outgunned the Tigers in the second half to the tune of an 82-66 win.

The opening minutes belonged entirely to the Tigers, however, thanks to a number of fast break opportunities caused by an effected half-court trap.

Excellent ball movement and vision from senior guard Condie Pugh, combined with a series of rushed possessions from the Flying Squadron, allowed the Tigers to get off to an explosive start and a 26-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.

But the good fortune wouldn’t last for long, as Highland Home adopted a full-court press that created a number of McKenzie turnovers and easy buckets for the Squadron.

Highland Home’s shot selection improved significantly in the second quarter, and the improved offensive production allowed the defense to get back faster to better defend a talented and speedy McKenzie backcourt.

The Squadron’s momentum continued to roll as the team went on a 17-3 run, though late-quarter foul trouble allowed the Tigers to hold on to a 5-point lead as the first half came to a close.

The Tigers’ situation grew worse in the third, however, as a pull-up 3-pointer from Kirkland Merriweather trimmed the lead to just 1 point.

Point guard Darion Means took over the remainder of the third, taking the first lead of the night for the Squadron with 1:52 left in the quarter.  A steal from Means on an inbound pass led to another easy bucket and extended the Squadron’s lead to 3.

Though an aggressive Tigers offense continued to attack the basket, missed free throws prevented McKenzie from taking advantage of the comeback opportunity.

Back-to-back 3-pointers from Highland Home put the contest well out of reach for McKenzie, but a fourth-quarter rally from Condie Pugh—including a clutch 3-pointer that trimmed the Squadron lead to a single point with 1:49 left on the clock—put the Tigers within striking distance at the game’s close.

But a solid shooting performance from Means, and continued trouble at the charity strike for McKenzie, allowed the Squadron to regain and maintain the lead as the clock dwindled down.

The Tigers will face the Kinston Bulldogs in a rematch Thursday at home.