By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
The Madison Southern Eagles overcame a slow start Tuesday and roared back to down district rival Model Laboratory, 77-66.
The Eagles fell behind by eight early on, but stormed back and dominated the second half to build a 15-point, 57-42, lead early in the fourth quarter.
They had to fend off a furious Model comeback attempt in the fourth quarter as the Patriots clawed back to within five points with 1:36 remaining.
But some clutch free throw shooting down the stretch allowed them to hang on for the victory.
“We played well. Our young guys came off the bench and really played well. They’ve come a long way. They don’t have a lot of experience but nothing rattled them,” Southern coach Shane Buttry said. “I knew it would be close. I knew Model would make a run, but our young players hung in there and we hit some big shots when we needed them.”
After trailing 16-10 after one quarter, the Eagles settled down and outscored the Patriots 24-10 in the second quarter to take a 34-26 halftime lead.
Buttry said it was all due to their patience on offense.
“We were settling for jump shots in the first quarter. We told them that we can not settle for jumpers. Take it to the lane and go to the rim. The second half we did that and we drew a lot of fouls and got to the line,” Buttry said. “It was just a matter of our bench stepping up when we got in foul trouble, they played super. I knew when it got tight, we had some young guys on the floor and they made a few mistakes. That’s part of growing up. But they also hit some really big buckets.”
In the second half, the Eagles totally dominated the backboards against a Patriot team missing one of its top big men, Alex Chen, who was sitting out the first of a two-game suspension after being ejected from the Patriots’ last game.
Trevor Huff, Devante Linville and Antonio Thrash combined for 20 rebounds in the game, while the entire Model team pulled down only 16 rebounds in the game.
That combined with a tremendous second half by Stacy Burns, who scored 17 of his 18 points in the second half, helped the Eagles build as much as a 17-point, 57-40, lead early in the fourth quarter.
Burns led three Eagles in double figures. Linville and Huff added 16 points each for the Eagles.
Caleb Kincaid led four Patriots in double figures with 16 points. Zack Rice-Gordon finished with 15 points, but only four of those came in the second half due to missing most of the third quarter in foul trouble.
Ephriam Otieno had 14 points, all but one of which came in the second half as he was finally able to find some success against the Eagle defense which had held him in check. He almost single-handedly got the Patriots back into the game mid-way through the fourth quarter.
Keith Mason added 13 points for the Patriots.
Model coach Wes Scarberry said he proud of the way his team battled back, but said it dug itself a hole by its lackadaisical play.
“We were down 17 and down a man and in foul trouble but our guys fought back and I’m really proud of them,” Scarberry said. “We had 16 total rebounds as a team and we average about 32. Our effort wasn’t there to rebound. We didn’t execute our gameplan and a lot of guys were just standing around. When we don’t rebound and don’t shoot it well, it’s going to be a long night.”
The Eagles did probably the best job any opponent has all year on Otieno, keeping him from slashing to the basket for easy looks or lanes to hit teammates for easy shots.
Scarberry said that was what stymied his offense and allowed the Eagles to build the big lead.
“They did a great job of slowing us down and I have to credit Madison Southern’s coaching staff for that and their kids,” Scarberry said. “They really clogged up the middle and we weren’t patient enough. It’s a learning experience for our guys and we’re going to see that a lot more.”
Southern’s young backcourt had very good games. Freshman Caleb Miller finished with eight points, Michael Jefferson added six points and Branden Sargent had four points. All three also handled the Model full-court pressure well for most of the night.
Tanner Kidwell finished with four points and Thrash had five points.
For Model, Jared Adams chipped in with four points and Chase Mohallatee had two points off the bench.
Model returns to action on Saturday at Western Hills. Meanwhile, Southern doesn’t have long to celebrate the win, with a matchup with cross-town rival Berea coming up on Friday.