But the Rebels couldn't hold onto a 10-point halftime lead and fell to Cleburne County (Ala.) on Thursday night, 61-49, in the semifinal round of the 36th Annual Haralson County Invitational Tournament.
The Rebels (0-11) went on a 14-2 run to end the first quarter and open the second quarter to help turn an 11-6 deficit into a 30-20 lead at halftime.
"We played well for the first half — about as good of basketball as we've played all season. It got away from us in the third quarter," HC coach Ken Walker said.
The third quarter was one to forget.
Lane Fortune picked up his fourth foul of the game less than a minute in and had to sit out the rest of the quarter. Without their top performer of the night, the Rebel offense disappeared, as Cleburne outscored HC, 21-3, in the frame and took a 41-33 lead going into the fourth.
"We only scored three points in the third quarter and our leading scorer was out with foul trouble," Walker said. "It got us out of rhythm, for sure. We lost a scoring punch and good defensive player, too. He just plays real aggressive and didn't play smart aggressive [Thursday]. Picked up some fouls he shouldn't have."
The Rebels came back and had a productive fourth quarter, but with the game already out of reach, moving them into the third-place game, where they will take on Bowdon today at 5:30 p.m.
Fortune led HC with 14 points and Gabe Johnson added a 12-point, 13-rebound double-double.
And while Matt Norton scored 23 for the Tigers and Antoine Phillips added 11, it was keeping Rocky Hayes under control and to only nine points that impressed Walker.
"I'm very proud of our defense to contain him and hold him to nine points. I had no idea we'd be able to do that. I was just trying to keep him from getting 40. I credit Mitchell Taylor, he was the man assigned that [Thursday] and he did a terrific job. Their other guys stepped up and helped them win the game," Walker said.
The Rebels will face Bowdon in the third-place game today, marking the third meeting between the Rebels and the Red Devils as Walker hopes to end the calendar year on a high note.
"We've played pretty tough games both times. We played a game like this one time where we had a bad first quarter, then outplayed them the second through fourth quarter. Just got so far behind we couldn't catch up. Then we had a bad third quarter when we played them here early in the season," Walker said.
"We know they'll be ready to play. They played [Thursday] against Central, so it's going to be tough. We want to close out 2011 with a win — 2012 gets really tough."