After taking a 12-point lead into the fourth quarter on Monday, the East Middle School boys basketball team staved off a final-period comeback attempt by West, holding on for a 44-41 victory at Tullahoma High School.
Multiple times in the fourth quarter, the Bobcats attempted to cut into their deficit. Each time though, the Panthers had an answer, including upping their lead to 39-28 with 3:55 remaining on the clock after Danny Martinez scored on a layup.
However, a 9-2 run cut East’s lead down to 41-37 after Jaxon Sheffield knocked down a pair of free throws for the Bobcats. Malik Grizzard answered with a basket for the Panthers on the opposite end, giving East a 43-37 advantage with 45 seconds remaining in the contest.
A made free throw by DeAndre Jenkins, followed by a late 3-pointer by Garrison Stamatis, cut the Bobcats’ deficit down to 43-41 with 5 seconds left on the clock. Jalen Hill followed with a free throw for East with 3.2 seconds for the Panthers, giving his team a 44-41 advantage.
West attempted a final shot attempt, but couldn’t find the equalizer, as East celebrated the victory.
Martinez was key for the Panthers in the win, netting 21 points. After scoring 11 points in the first half, Martinez followed that with 10 more points in the final two periods.
The first quarter saw the teams go back-and-forth, with a total of five lead changes in the period. After Hill put East in front 7-6 with a basket with 55 seconds remaining in the period, the Panthers followed with four more points to take an 11-6 advantage heading into the second quarter.
Hill and Martinez each hit a basket in the final minute of the first period for East.
That advantage grew for the Panthers in the second quarter, including taking an eight-point lead twice. Martinez hit a pair of free throws, making the score 18-10 with 1:49 left in the first half.
Jenkins hit back-to-back baskets for the Bobcats, cutting his team’s deficit down to 18-14. Hill added one final basket for East, giving the Panthers a 20-14 edge heading into halftime.
Out of the break, East began to take control in the third quarter, building a 14-point lead late in the period. Martinez first hit a basket, before Jaiden Sanchez hit a free throw, giving the Panthers a 33-19 advantage with 38 seconds remaining in the period.
Evan Tomlin added a final basket for West in the third quarter, cutting the Bobcats’ deficit to 33-21 entering the final period of play.
While Martinez put up his 21 points to lead the Panthers, Grizzard was second in scoring on the night for East, putting up seven points. Hill finished his night with six points, while Sanchez added five. Zane Hopf and Logan Prosser each scored two points, while Charlie Pierce hit a free throw to round out the scoring for the Panthers.
Jenkins led the Bobcats in scoring on the night, netting 13 points in the victory. Tomlin and Sheffield also finished with double figures, each putting up 10 points. Stamatis finished his night with seven points, before Grant Chadwick hit a free throw to round out the scoring for West.
Heading into Monday’s rivalry game, both teams were coming off of a loss last week. East previously lost to Warren County 46-27 in McMinnville on Dec. 10. West lost its matchup 68-28 at South on Dec. 10.
The West basketball teams were scheduled to head to Murfreesboro to take part in a tournament at Oakland Middle School, getting underway on Wednesday and concluding on Friday. As of press time, the results from those games were unavailable.
The East basketball teams will have the remainder of the year off, getting back to the court on Jan. 7, when they head to Winchester to take on North. Tipoff of the girls game is scheduled for 6 p.m. with the boys taking the floor 10 minutes after that contest concludes.