Despite holding a six-point lead with 1:17 left in the contest, Tullahoma couldn’t hang on, as Independence won with a late put back to seal a 59-58 victory at home Tuesday.
On the Eagles’ final possession, Zack Melton attempted a corner shot that was no good. In a fight for the basketball, Independence forward Matt St. Charles came away with possession, putting up a shot that landed, giving his team a 59-58 lead with 2.9 seconds remaining in the contest.
Ben Fulton dribbled the ball up court, but the Eagles’ defense forced him to pass to teammate Joe Duncan. The sophomore forward couldn’t get a shot off before the buzzer sounded as Independence secured the victory.
Tullahoma had a hard time guarding Matt, as he put up 18 points in the win for the Eagles. In fact, he put up the first two points of the ballgame for Independence. With 5:30 left in the first quarter, the Wildcats found themselves in a 9-0 hole.
However, the Wildcats went on a 26-2 run, grabbing a 26-11 lead with 3:15 left in the second quarter. During that run, Tullahoma held the Eagles scoreless for nearly eight minutes of play.
With 2:25 left in the first quarter, Hrishi Salitry hit a basket to give Independence an 11-9 lead. Independence did not score again until Noah Crook hit a basket with 3:02 remaining in the second period.
Tullahoma put up 15-straight points during that run. Ben Fulton knocked down a jumper to even the score at 11. With three seconds left in the first quarter, Austin Secrest hit a shot, but was fouled going up on the attempt. Secrest went on to hit the ensuing free throw, giving Tullahoma a 14-11 advantage heading into the second quarter.
Ryan Scott led off the second period with a four-point play, as the sophomore guard hit a 3-pointer and added a free throw. Fulton followed with a 3-pointer, while Krys Uselton hit a free throw, before Secrest added two freebies of his own. Jake Hollandsworth added a bucket, to give Tullahoma a 26-11 lead with 3:15 left in the first half.
The Wildcats were held scoreless the remainder of the half, as Independence ended the second quarter on an 8-0 run. Crook hit a basket, while Matt put up six points, making the score 26-19 at halftime.
Early in the third quarter, Independence cut its deficit down to four points, as Melton knocked down a 3-pointer, making the score 28-24 with 6:23 left in the period. However, Tullahoma countered with an 8-2 run, grabbing a 36-26 advantage with 4:12 left in the third quarter.
Uselton got the scoring started during that stretch with a basket for the Wildcats. Fulton made a basket while being fouled, hitting the free throw, while Secrest added a 3-pointer.
Tullahoma was held to just five more points the remainder of the third quarter, as Independence chipped away at its deficit. Melton hit two more 3-pointers before the period ended, and at the buzzer, St. Charles hit a basket, making the score 41-38 heading into the final quarter.
Independence tied the game early in the fourth quarter, and the teams went back and forth, as the lead changed four times in the period. With the score tied at 46, Tullahoma went on a 9-0 run.
After Duncan hit a pair of free throws for the Wildcats, Eagles’ coach Greg Glass helped Tullahoma, getting a technical foul after an argument with the referee. Fulton capitalized by burying the ensuing free throws.
On the same possession, Secrest was fouled while attempting a 3-pointer, and went on to make all three of his attempts. Uselton added a pair of free throws of his own, making the score 55-46 with 2:38 left in the contest.
From there, Independence closed out the quarter on a 13-3 run. Melton and Trey St. Charles helped lead that run with a pair of 3-pointers.
Late in the game, Tullahoma had a couple of opportunities to even the score, including missing a layup late in the contest. With 17.7 seconds left on the clock, Secrest went to the free throw line with the score tied at 57. Secrest was able to knock down the second of his two free throw attempts, giving Tullahoma a 58-57 edge.
On the ensuing possession, St. Charles would hit the game winner, leaving Tullahoma with little time on the clock.
Secrest led the Wildcats in scoring on the night, as he put up 16 points. The senior guard also grabbed three rebounds and had a steal.
Fulton and Uselton each netted 13 point for Tullahoma. Fulton also had seven rebounds, while Uselton had three and a pair of steals.
Hollandsworth added six points. Duncan and Scott each had four points, while Will Partin scored two points.
Tullahoma (0-1) was scheduled to play a pair of games on Saturday at Clarkrange. As of press time, the results of those games were unavailable.
The Wildcats are scheduled to play host to Warren County in the home opener on Tuesday. Tipoff of the girls game is scheduled for 6 p.m. with the boys taking the floor 15 minutes after that contest concludes.