It proved to be a nice bounce-back win for first-year MZ coach Joey Marinelli after his Eagles (5-1) suffered their first loss of the season on Friday night, though he didn’t necessarily want to sweat it out so much there at the end, where his team endured a 3-of-9 clip from the charity stripe in the final 2:21.
“Yeah, we’ve got to get better from the line. It shouldn’t have been as nerve-wracking as it was for us,” Marinelli said.
MZ missed five consecutive free throws at one point — including the front end of back-to-back 1-and-1s — before Eagle guard Matt Turner came through with a pair of clutch free throws with 19.9 seconds left to make it a four-point game.
“Turner stepped up there. He’s real cool under pressure. He does a good job for us. Then Cohen [Pannell] did a real good job for us. He stepped in and normally isn’t one of our starters, but we couldn’t start one of our normal guys and he stepped in and scored 15 for us and played pretty solid defense and got a few rebounds. He did a really good job,” Marinelli said.
After Turner’s free throws made it a two-possession game again, Bowdon’s C.J. Brewer continued his torrid fourth-quarter effort with a 3-pointer with 6.4 seconds left — marking his 11th points of the quarter and tying a team-best 13 for the game — to cut the lead to 62-61.
But on the ensuing in-bounds, the Red Devils (3-3) had a bit of a mental lapse and didn’t commit a foul until there was 0.7 seconds left on the clock. Jason McCubbin made one of two free throws and MZ senior forward Nate Warren intercepted Bowdon’s full-court heave on the in-bounds play to seal the win.
First-year Bowdon coach Antonio Smith was left a little frustrated following the loss, noting that it was a winnable game had his team fixed a few issues.
“You know, it’s a good win for Mt. Zion. I think just a few small things cost us the game. We played hard, but we should have pulled this one out,” Smith said. “Unfortunately, a missed shot here, a missed shot there, a turnover here, a turnover there, cost us.”
Along with his game-high 15 points, Pannell also pulled down eight rebounds, while Chris Blanchard knocked down four 3-pointers for his 12 points and T.K. Tuggle also reached double figures for MZ with 10 points.
Brewer had 13 points and six boards off the bench to pace the Red Devils, who also got 13-point efforts from Chris Keith and Juwan Maze, as Keith recorded a team-high nine boards. Marcus Thurman also scored in double figures with 10 points and eight rebounds.
Bowdon girls 53, Mt. Zion 43: The Red Devilettes (5-1) handed host MZ its second loss in as many days, something first-year Bowdon coach Remonica Stephens credited to her team’s depth, with both ball clubs playing a Saturday afternoon game following a Friday night affair.
“Our bench is just a little deeper this year, and that’s something we’ve tried working on — getting our younger girls some playing time so we can give the seniors and juniors a break,” Stephens said. “I think we have more options than they’ve had in the past. We’ve got a good sophomore and freshman group, and we’re going to let them get that experience.”
For Mt. Zion coach Bill Bailey, it was a matter of allowing too many second-chance opportunities and uncontested shots in the second half that proved to be the difference after his squad took a 28-26 lead into the locker room at halftime.
“We quit playing defense and kept letting them get the rebound that we weren’t letting them get in the first half,” Bailey said. “Then we just stood around and watched them shoot. I didn’t think we played as good of defense in the second half as we did in the first half. But it was a lot better than we played [Friday] night.”
MZ led the majority of the first half before a Katlyn Buchanan bucket gave the Red Devilettes their first lead of the night at 19-18 with 4:25 left in the second quarter. The Lady Eagles (4-2) answered with an 8-2 run to build a five-point lead and Jennifer Bagby’s putback at the buzzer kept MZ up at halftime, 28-26.
The Lady Eagles would get just one field goal in the third quarter, though, and Bowdon ultimately grabbed a lead it wouldn’t let go of down the stretch.
Bowdon point guard Whitney McClure led a balanced offensive attack with 12 points, followed by Jacole Stephens (11 points, 12 rebounds) and Reshay Brewer (10 points). Mt. Zion’s Jordan Crews led all scorers with 16 points.
The two teams will meet again on Thursday at 7 p.m. to open the West Georgia Holiday Classic at Bowdon.