Grant Whitaker

Murray High guard Grant Whitaker pulls up over a McCracken County defender in the Tigers’ loss to the Mustangs.

PADUCAH — Murray High had its chances, but without their starting center, it could not contain McCracken County.

RaVichael Strickland left the game early in the first half, and did not return due to a left ankle injury, and the Mustangs took care of business Monday Night at Strawberry Hills Arena, defeating the Tigers 64-45.

The first half was a close, defensive fight, but the Tigers missed three early layups to start the second half, which set the tone for the remainder of the game.

McCracken outscored Murray 47-32 in the second half on the way to another win in the first region.

“We couldn’t manufacture enough points to score, but credit to their defense,” Murray head coach Dior Curtis said. “They did a really good job of being physical with us, bumping us off spots, and the easy shots that we had at the beginning of the (third) quarter, we just couldn’t make… Against a really good team like that, you have to be able to score the ball, and we didn’t do that tonight.”

After Strickland went down, Darius Duffy was the only line of defense against the likes of Jackson Sivills and Mitchell Guthrie. 

The Tigers did a good job defending Sivills though, who has numerous Division-I offers including one from Murray State, holding him to just 11 points on the night.

“We knew that it was going to be tough to guard him one-on-one,” Curtis said of Sivills. “We wanted to show him something a little bit different that he probably hadn’t seen all year long and stop him from scoring the ball at a really high level and I thought we did that tonight.”

The problem, however, turned out to be sophomore Noah Dumas. Dumas recorded a team-high 16 points and was a nuisance on the defensive end of the floor all night long with his ability to poke balls free and jump passing lanes. 

Never phased by Dumas is eighth grader Grant Whitaker, who was the primary guard for him. The Tigers’ young point guard showed promise once again Monday against a highly skilled McCracken County team, scoring a team-high 16 points, and was really the one consistent thing about Murray’s offense in the game.

“Grant’s going to be a big-time player, and he’s playing well,” Curtis said. “He’s getting back into a groove of things and we needed him to score the ball tonight, and we’re going to need him to score well for us for the rest of the season.”

Having played three games in three days, the Tigers get a much needed break before they close the regular season out Thursday against Carlisle County. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. in Taylor Gymnasium. 

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