The Lady Tigers (0-3) jumped out to a 10-0 lead early in the game, with Mt. Zion (2-0) not getting on the board until a Jordan Crews basket almost halfway through the first quarter. Temple would lead 15-8 after the first quarter and 21-18 at halftime, but the Lady Eagles would take the lead at 31-30 with 1:18 left in the third and never look back.
"We didn't deserve to win the game," Mt. Zion coach Bill Bailey said. "We turned the ball over. It was a win, but like I told them, I felt like down the stretch we executed a little better than Temple, but hat's off to them. We're better than that. We didn't shoot free throws real well."
For the Lady Tigers, it was an effort that just didn't quite get them their first win of the season. Even in the loss, there were positives Temple coach Rhett Parson could take away from the game.
"It is tough. The difference came down to their girls being more physical than ours. They hit key free throws down the stretch, where we went 0-8 at one point," Parson said. "I would say effort. We talk all week about no excuses and whatever it takes. We're not going to make excuses and we're going to play to the best of our ability. We just came up short [Tuesday]. I think they played the hardest I've seen them since I've been here. The expectations have gone up. I'm proud of them."
With things going Temple's way early, it was able to build a lead while getting MZ's starters in foul trouble. Crews and Jennifer Bagby picked up three fouls in the first quarter alone. Bagby and Alexis Jordan would end up fouling out in the fourth quarter.
"They got deep into our bench. We had some girls that stepped up. Madison Barrow, Brittney McIntosh had to come off the bench and play a lot," Bailey said.
Charmin Moore led the way for the Lady Tigers with a game-high 18 points and added six rebounds. Dru Groves chipped in with nine points, while Donique Channer led the team with 10 rebounds. The scoring will always come from Moore, but Parson expects other girls to step up as the season goes on.
"All five of them can score when they want to. I think [Moore] and Dru have to be the narrators sometimes and get it going for us to be successful, but we've got some weapons. Erin [Acree] hit a big 3 and Erica [Scheerer] hit a big 3 down the stretch. It ain't just Charmin and Dru. We've got weapons when they play hard and do what they're supposed to do," Parson said.
Acree and Scheerer's 3-pointers came late in the fourth quarter with Acree's pulling the Lady Tigers to within 45-43 with 21 seconds left, but Mt. Zion's Corrssia Perry made a pair of free throws to help put the game away.
Crews paced the Lady Eagles with 13 points, five rebounds and four assists, while Jordan added 11 points and five rebounds with Bagby also reaching double figures with a 10-point, seven-rebound effort. Quavadis Kirk led MZ with 16 rebounds. The development of Crews as the team's point guard will serve the Lady Eagles well down the road.
"Jordan, like I told her, she doesn't realize how good she can be," Bailey said. "She's still young, but she's stepped in the last two ball games and done a great job at point guard for us. She has great vision. She sees the floor good."
Now MZ will turn its focus to practice as it prepares to face Haralson County on the road Friday night before the two meet again at Mt. Zion on Tuesday.
"We've got to go to work and execute the things that we do. We'll get the JV boys out there to play some defense to give us a better look," Bailey said.
Up next, the Lady Tigers will face new Region 5-AA opponent Bowdon on the road Friday night. For Temple to be successful in region play, it will have to keep the momentum from Tuesday going.
"The next game we play Bowdon. To be in that region, you have to play great basketball and bring your 'A' game every day. We definitely can't lay down. We've got to move forward and I think we put our best foot forward [Tuesday]," Parson said.
Mt. Zion boys 67, Temple 45: Four Eagles (2-0) reached double figures scoring, as Mt. Zion got a 22-point win at Temple.
Tayon Farmer led MZ with 18 points, while Chris Blanchard scored 17, Matt Turner scored 15 and Corey Loftin added 10 points. Turner completed a double-double with 10 rebounds and had five assists in the win.
"Blanchard stepped up [Tuesday]. He found his rhythm from beyond the arc and made a couple good cuts to the basket and got some lay-ups. Tayon, what can you say about him? He forces his own offense playing as good defense as he does. Corey always does a good job for us. He's been big just being out here leading on the court," MZ coach Joey Marinelli said.
The Tigers (0-3) got another strong performance from sophomore Elijah McFarland, who had 18 points and 11 rebounds for a double-double effort. Briahious McPherson chipped in eight points, while Rashaan Dobbs and Isaiah Strozier scored six points each.
"I'm real pleased and proud about [McFarland]. He plays hard, he's selfless, he'll play whatever we need to be successful as a team. He's a great basketball player, but he's a better kid. I kind of got lucky having him available and thrusting him into the situation," Temple coach Steve Robinson said.
Marinelli is seeing the possibility of his team being competitive even early in the season as players are getting back from football into basketball, and playing without injured senior Nathan Bernhardt.
"I thought they did a better job [Tuesday] playing with the lead. I know they wanted to beat Temple, coach Robinson does a great job. We haven't beaten them since I've been here. It was a big win for the kids," Marinelli said. "They've progressed a lot from the end of football season to now, for sure. They did some good things on defense and making progress offensively."
With a younger and inexperienced team, Robinson hopes to see continued progression as they get ready for a daunting Region 5-AA schedule.
"They just continue to get better, continue to grow and mature. Whatever the situation is or adverse the situation, they continue to play the right way. Let effort, not talent drive your basketball play. I love them. There's just no other way to get around it. Just a little inexperienced," Robinson said. "You almost have to be perfect at this stage for us, you almost have to be perfect with your execution. It's not like we're doomed. We're going to be fine."
On Friday, the Eagles will travel to Haralson County, while Temple will face Bowdon on the road.