McCONNELL

Commerce's Ian McConnell glides in for a layup in the third quarter of the Tigers' 58-48 win over Madison County. McConnell finished with 16 points. 

With a smaller crowd on hand due to no girls’ game on the schedule, the Commerce boys’ basketball team was tasked with generating its own energy in the building.

The Tigers (3-6) finally found that surge midway through the third quarter and rode it to a 58-48 win over visiting Madison County Tuesday (Dec. 22). Dudley Dickson and Ian McConnell both scored 16 points to pace Commerce.

“I told our team before the game that we’ve got to set the energy,” Tiger coach Russ Gregg said. “And I thought we sort of waited around and waited around. But when we did, I felt it sort of put us over the top.”

Commerce, which ran out to a 13-2 advantage early and led 26-18 at the half, saw its lead dwindle to 30-26 with less than five minutes remaing in the third quarter.

But McConnell ignited a pivotal run with a hook shot at the 4:18 mark, followed by a 3-pointer from Jackson Morris and another basket by McConnell. Creed Dunbar later picked off a pass and scored on a layup and then picked up an assist when he hit Matthew Simpson cutting to the basket for a layup. Then, in the final seconds of the quarter, McConnell converted a layup, capping a 13-2 run and pushing the lead to 43-28.

“I feel like we really picked up the tempo, definitely on the defensive end, and it led to a couple of run outs, so we were able to get some layups,” Gregg said. “And we executed, and I thought that was the biggest thing.”

Commerce held a double-digit advantage for most of the fourth quarter, leading by 16 points at one point.

Gregg said his team passed the ball well and did a good job of finding open players on the floor in winning its second-straight game.

“That’s been the big thing,” he said. “I would rather hit the open person and miss a shot than going down and forcing one up. We’re getting better at that. It just takes some time to get everybody in the mix, and I’m really proud of our team right now.”

The Tigers are benefitting from the return of Dunbar and Shawn Cunningham, who recently rejoined the team after the conclusion of football season. The pair of seniors bring not only scoring, but size to Commerce’s lineup. Gregg said that made a difference in Tuesday’s game.

“A 4-A school like Madison County, they’ve got a lot of size,” Gregg said. “We beat them the first time, but it was smoke and mirrors, as I like to say as a coach. I was changing defenses every time down the floor trying to figure out something. Today, we were able to stay set and play man-to-man and play a little bit of 2-3 zone. I felt like our kids executed the game plan extremely well.”

Commerce returns to action against Elbert County Wednesday (Dec. 23, 5:39 p.m.) at home.

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