MURRAY — The Murray High Tigers came out of the gate swinging last night in their win over University Heights in the season opener 89-77.
With 35 seconds left to play, Darius Duffy hauled in a pass as the Tigers broke the full-court press and stuffed it home to send the crowd into a frenzy. It was the exclamation point on the win and just a glimpse at what Duffy is capable of on the offensive end.
On the night he finished with just nine points, but his true value came on the defensive end with three blocked shots and with his presence under the basket as he grabbed 20 rebounds.
“Darius is going to have a really good year for us this year,” head coach Dior Curtis said. “I told Darius, ‘Since nobody’s really played tonight (Monday), he’s probably going to lead the state in rebounding,’ so that’s the expectation for the rest of the season, is for him to get 20 boards every night…Darius is a really good kid and he’s been working on his game a lot and he’s going to help us out a lot this season.”
Duffy wasn’t the only player to stuff the stat sheet last night either. Freshman Grant Whitaker piled up 31 points in the win as he battled with UHA’s KJ Crump who scored 36 points.
“He started off by making some shots and then he found some rhythm and they started pressuring him a little bit,” Curtis said. “He started working on his post game a little bit and he started posting guys up and getting to the rim and finishing some layups. He scored really well for us tonight. That’s what we expect out of him.”
The Tigers jumped out to a 30-11 lead after one quarter of play and that was the biggest lead they held all night at 29 points. At the halftime horn, they led 53-30. It was in the third quarter that things took a turn in favor of UHA. Crump poured in 16 points in the quarter and the Tigers’ offense got a little sloppy with turnovers. That allowed UHA to cut the lead to as little as seven points, but the Tigers were resilient and got back into the flow of their offense in the fourth.
“In the second half I played a little shorter of a rotation and guys got winded,” Curtis said. “We made some little mistakes, didn’t get to some guys, especially KJ Crump. He made some three’s on us tonight. I told the guys, ‘I don’t know if he always shoots that well, but he shot it really well tonight and he’s going to have a really good season this year for them,’ but we didn’t get to some guys in some spots and we stopped scoring as well.”
Murray High outscored UHA in every quarter, except for the third, and came away with their first win of the year. Trey Boggess scored 14 points and pulled in nine rebounds. Gabe Taylor added 13 points with three made three’s. Charqwan McCallister had 14 points as well. Curtis said the overall effort was there and the little things can be fixed as the season progresses.
“You always want to start the season 1-0, and that’s what I told the guys,” Curtis said. “We gave up a big lead in the third quarter and end up sustaining it (the lead) and holding on to it and getting the victory. That was the most important thing for us tonight. We’ll get better and work on the thing we need to work on starting tomorrow but we’re just happy to get the victory.”