MURRAY — Dominating in all aspects of the game, the Murray High Tiger boys basketball team opened the Region 1 All-A Classic Tuesday night with an 81-25 blowout of the Ballard Memorial Bombers in Taylor Gymnasium.
Led by sophomore Grant Whitaker’s 23 points and five rebounds and senior Gabe Taylor’s 13 points, the Tigers (2-1) were never threatened in the game.
Jumping out to a 6-0 lead, the home team forced Ballard Memorial’s (1-3) head coach Jimmie Holder to call a timeout just 52 seconds into the game to slow Murray’s early momentum. It didn’t seem to affect Murray’s offense when play resumed, as the Tigers continued to pour it on early, racing ahead to leads of 19-6 on a three-pointer from freshman guard Drew May and 23-6 at the end of the first quarter, behind Whitaker’s first eight points.
The second quarter didn’t fare much better for the visitors as Murray’s ferocious defense, combined with their height and athletic advantages, created a complete mismatch that kept the Bombers from keeping up. A three from the wing for Taylor put the Tigers on top 29-6, followed by a one-handed reverse layup from junior guard Charqwan McCallister, just kept the offense flowing, and a 31-7 lead with less than half of the 2nd quarter underway. A couple of additional three-pointers from Whitaker, one off a nice find from Taylor, had the Tigers leading by 30 points at 39-9. Murray finished the half leading 55-12.
The third quarter only saw 15 points on the scoreboard from the Tigers, but the defense limited Ballard Memorial to just six. Junior guard Caleb Wyatt, who finished with eight points on the night, hit a three-pointer to increase the lead to 51 points at 1:21 to go in the quarter and the period ended with the Tigers up 70-18.
The fourth quarter saw Head Coach Dior Curtis pull his starters, but the Tiger bench only let the Bombers have seven points in the period. Behind Wyatt’s five points and three steals in the period and sophomore forward Colin Wilson’s four points, as well as seven of freshman forward Zavion Carman’s team-high 11 rebounds, the Tiger bench was determined to not let the Bombers have any easy buckets.
One of the strengths of this Tiger team, the balanced scoring it is capable of displaying, was evident on Tuesday evening. Six players had seven or more points and drew the praise of Curtis after the game.
“We feel like we want to be a more balanced team,” said Curtis. “You know Grant’s going to lead us most nights, but Qwanie is still trying to find his stroke from outside. He’s a really good distributor, a good guy to push the pace and he’s taken some of the defensive responsibilities onto him in games.
“We want to be a better outside shooting team, but we feel like we can get in the lane. We finished well around the rim and (sophomore forward) Lincoln (English) got some easy buckets for us tonight and (senior forward) Dijon (Miles) started us off with a layup with his first starting role as a varsity guy.”
Curtis had Miles in the starting role, as the Tigers were without three key players on the night, which made the performance that much more impressive, as senior Sebastian Lawrence and juniors Trey Boggess and Rowdy Sokolowski didn’t see the court for the Tigers.
English finished with a near-double-double, contributing nine points and eight rebounds, followed by McCallister’s seven points and team-leading five assists. May totaled seven points as well, to go along with Miles’ and Carman’s four points. Taylor’s team-leading five steals paced Murray’s 25 steals on the night. Whitaker’s 23 points was near his average of 24.0 points per game, but he accomplished it in only three quarters of play. He found his three-point shooting stroke with 2-of-2 effort on the night after coming into the game in a bit of a slump behind the arc at 1-of-7 on the year.
Murray advances to the semifinals of the tournament, and will face Hickman County Friday night at the Mayfield Sports Arena at Mayfield High School. The Falcons defeated Fulton County, 71-43, Tuesday. The winner of that semifinal matchup will face either Mayfield or St. Mary’s in the final.