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Tigers Fall to Knox Catholic in Opening Round of TSSAA State Tournament

A terrific season for the Macon County Tigers ended in the opening round of the TSSAA Class AA State tournament on Mar 15th.
Macon County lost to #1 ranked Knox Catholic by a final score of 78-46.
In what most fans considered an unlucky draw for Macon, this was an opening round match-up of two of the highest ranked teams in the field of eight left in the playoffs. At Murphy Center in Murfreesboro, both teams came out in the first quarter tight and a bit sluggish. Tiger Heston King scored the first three baskets followed by a three from Cameron Welch to give the Tigers a 9-5 lead with 3:41 left in the 1st period. Catholic shook off their rust and went on one of what would be a series of runs in the game, closing out the opening period 10-2 and the Irish led 15-11.
The Tigers tried to slow the Irish offense by switching from a 1-3-1 half court trapping defense to man-to-man in the 2nd period. However, Catholic would continue to play good sound basketball on both ends of the court. After Catholic had pushed the lead to 10, Seth Carlisle’s bucket with 2:50 left in the half cut the lead to 21-25. Then came another run. Catholic finished the last three minutes on yet another 10-2 run, shooting 4 of 4 with two three pointers. The Irish led 35-23 at the break.
Catholic appeared to be a team with a lot of similarities to the Tigers, but today they were simply better. The Irish slowly built their lead aided by a Macon scoring drought of over four minutes midway thru the 3rd, shooting 2 of 6 with two turnovers. Catholic led 51-36 heading to the final quarter and Tiger fans didn’t have much to be hopeful for.
Catholic deserves a lot of credit as they are a well rounded basketball team and every bit a top team in Class AA. They kept the pressure on the Tigers and never let off the gas. Catholic went on another run midway thru the final quarter outscoring the Tigers 13-2 to put this game definitely out of reach. Final score was Knox Catholic 78 Macon County 46.
Scoring for the Tigers was: Seth Carlisle 10, Michael Ashburn 10, Riley Phillips 6, Heston King 8, Dalton Marsh 4, Cameron Welch 3, Trent Cook 3, and Clay West 2. Kelton Ballou, Spencer Hogin, Cole Carnahan, Kendrick Carter, and Matt Young all played but did not score. The Tigers shot 19 of 47(40%) from the field and only made 4 of 19 (21%) three pointers. Macon committed 13 turnovers in the game.
Catholic had four different players scoring in double figures. However, the telling stat was that they shot 31 of 54 (57%) for the game and 9 of 19 (47%) from behind the arc (They were 11 of 16, which is 69%, in the final quarter alone). They simply were a better team in just about all phases of the game. Catholic advanced to the finals where they lost to Maplewood to finish runner-up in class AA.
Following the game MCHS Head Coach Jason Welch commented, “It was just frustrating when you hold opponents to 41% shooting in the regular season, because we pride ourselves on defense, and this Catholic team comes out and shoots the lights out of the gym. They are a very good team.” Senior guard Michael Ashburn reflected “we have come a long way in only winning 17 games my freshman year to 29 this season.” However Junior Seth Carlisle summed it up by saying “our game just wasn’t working and they made us play their game at their tempo.”
Macon County finishes the season at 29-5 and was the regular season and tournament district 8AA champions. They were also the Region 4AA champions and are the only Tiger team in history to not lose a single district or region game in a season. Tiger faithful sure got a good ride this year and look forward to a lot of experience coming back next year.
Photos by Julie Collins