Last season, the Commerce High boys’ basketball team got its first win on the road against in-county rival Jackson County.
Fast-forward to Tuesday night, the Tigers were winless to start the 2017 season and hosting their first game of 2017. The opponent: Jackson County.
Like last season, the result fell Tigers’ way, 73-71. Kyre Ware led the Tigers (1-2, 0-0 Region 8-A) with 18 points. Jamecus Cox scored 16 points. Caleb Mason added nine points.
First-year Tigers’ head coach Russ Gregg called his first win “emotional.”
“I grew up, I played here,” Gregg said, “and to get my first win, at home, is very special. I appreciate all the people coming out and supporting us.”
The Tigers led by as many as 11 points in the fourth quarter, but late Panthers’ surge put Jackson County ahead 67-66 after Hunter Mealey knocked down a pair of free throws with 2:11 left in the game.
Ware responded at the other end, knocking in the go-ahead bucket for the Tigers with 1:57 left. The Panthers missed two free throws and had the ball go off a defender on a Tigers’ free throw in the final minute. Even with the miscues, the Panthers still had a chance in the end as Iaises Risher hit a layup to cut the deficit 73-71 with 12.5 seconds remaining.
After the Tigers committed a lane violation on a free-throw attempt with 11 seconds left, the Panthers had the ball for the last possession, but a right-corner 3-pointer missed as time expired, securing the win for the Tigers.
“We’ve got to learn how to win,” Gregg said. “That’s the biggest thing for us right now, but I was very impressed with the way we played in the second half.”
The Panthers led from 5-2 in the first quarter to 38-35 early in the third quarter.
“(Jackson County) runs kids in and out,” Gregg said. “(Coach) Chuck (Butler) does a really good job and I was very worried about us getting worn down, because we’re not as deep.
“We haven’t had a lot of team practices either, I think nine with our whole team together, so we’re just trying to build, and when you can get a win like that, we can build as we got to (region) play.”
The Tigers open region play this Friday vs. Hebron Christian.
For Butler, it was a matter of the team not keeping its “composure” with the lead.
“We keep having these leads at the half and we keep shooting ourselves in the foot,” he said. “We’re 13-for-32 from the foul line, had four lane violations on free throws. We stepped on the line inbounding the basketball.”
Those plays helped generate a swing in momentum and “runs” for the Tigers, Butler added.
“Anytime you’re in somebody else’s gym, you don’t want to give an opportunity for the crowd to get into it and for them to get pumped,” Butler said.
Butler thought his team made good runs of its own, especially late in the game down 11.
“Showed a little resiliency in that, so we can kind of take some positives there, but we’ve just got to put them all (four quarters) together,” Butler said, “and be able to execute those little, minor details.
“We’re playing quick, and we know that some of those things are going to be a by-product of it, but at the same time when they keep happening over and over, we’ve got to step up and fix it.”
The Panthers play at West Hall this Friday.