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McKenzie survives hail of bullets to topple Squadron

Terrion Nichols goes up for a lay-in over the significantly taller McKenzie defender, Aiden Holt.

Terrion Nichols goes up for a lay-in over the significantly taller McKenzie defender, Aiden Holt.

The longstanding 2016-2017 rivalry between the McKenzie Tigers and the Highland Home Flying Squadron wound to a close Monday.

The Tigers endured a hail of Squadron gunfire, which culminated in a 12-point McKenzie deficit in the third quarter, to mount a comeback and hold on to a 61-55 Tiger win.

But for the first three quarters, at least, momentum remained firmly with the Flying Squadron.

Highland Home opened the night with a relentless assault of the rim, led by guards Donaven Roberson and Terrion Nichols.

Beyond the arc, back-to-back 3-pointers from twin terrors Noah Phillips and Daniel Phillips closed the first quarter with a 6-point Highland Home lead.

A panicked McKenzie offense grew more so due to the growing deficit as careless turnovers became Flying Squadron points.

The Tigers battled on, however, slicing the deficit to just 2 points until another 3-pointer from Noah Phillips pushed McKenzie further out of reach and closed the half with a 9-point Highland Home lead.

The Tigers righted the ship at the top of the third with an 8-0 run that reduced Highland Home’s lead to just 1 with 4:22 left in the third quarter.

Carelessness reared its ugly head once again for the Tigers, however, in the final seconds of the third as Highland Home turned on the jets and built a 12-point lead, the largest of the night.

But the Highland Home lead melted away in the fourth quarter as sloppy play infected the Flying Squadron’s offense as referees called several momentum-halting traveling calls gave the Tigers a number of chances to chip away at the Highland Home lead.

A beautiful dish from Chris Shufford to Jacquez Smith tied the game at 50 points apiece halfway through the fourth quarter, though Noah Phillips continued to prove clutch beyond the arc as he regained the Squadron’s lead.

Smith turned up the aggressiveness in the paint for McKenzie as the Tigers entered the bonus, powering McKenzie to a 6-point lead.

The weight of the deficit showed in a frustrated Highland Home offense as open shots missed their mark, while McKenzie free throws put even more distance between the two teams as time winded down.

The McKenzie Tigers advanced to face Georgiana, though results were unavailable at press time.