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Neers outlast Murray to move on to region semis, end Indians' season

Feb. 13—CHATSWORTH — In the two matchups between rivals North Murray and Murray County during the regular season, both came down to the final moments and both teams picked up a win.

It was only natural that, with a state playoff berth on the line in a quarterfinal game of the Region 7-2A tournament Tuesday, the two rivals would play another instant classic.

It was the Mountaineers that prevailed this time, outlasting a Murray County surge and a frenetic final few moments to win 53-50 to end the season of the Indians and reach the Region 7-2A semifinals Thursday. North Murray (19-5) secures a playoff spot and will continue to battle for a region title, playing top-seeded Model Thursday at 8:30 p.m. Murray (13-12) gets left on the outside of a tough top four and ends the season early.

Murray County won the first game between the two teams 51-46 in January. North Murray won the next, 60-57, just last week.

After an intense first quarter that ended with an 18-16 North Murray lead, the Mountaineers pulled out to a lead in the second that might have broken the string of highly-competitive rivalry games.

The second quarter started slowly for both offenses after the high-scoring first, but then North Murray got hot and Murray did not. A 5-point lead quickly ballooned to 11 after Cayce Robinette came off the bench to hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions. Those were the only two buckets of the game for Robinette, but they spurred a run that got a Mountaineer lead as large as 14 before North Murray settled for a 35-23 halftime lead.

Where North Murray caught fire at times in the first half, the Indians kept them cool in the third quarter.

Murray held the Neers to just four points in the quarter, outscoring North Murray 13-4 to make the margin just three — 39-36 — after three quarters. Murray senior Avery Jones hit a tough layup followed by a 3-pointer on the next possession, and Parker Hawkins hit a layup through a foul to make 39-36 the score.

The North Murray lead was finally fully erased when Murray's Braylon Myers swished a 3-pointer from the corner to tie the game at 43 with 3:30 left, but North Murray's JD Ellis hit one right back to put North Murray back in front.

North Murray held a 48-47 lead with a minute left. Ellis hit another huge 3-pointer to put North Murray up 51-47, but Hawkins came through with another and-one with 46.4 seconds left to cut the score to 51-50.

Murray got a stop, but a turnover put the ball back in the hands of North Murray with 4.8 seconds left. Judson Petty added a free throw to make it 52-50, and a turnover on the inbounds pass gave North Murray back the ball with one second left.

Beau Ellis hit the first of two free throws, and the game appeared headed for an end when Ellis missed the second and the ball bounced free with one second on the clock.

An inadvertent whistle stopped play, however, and Murray was awarded the ball since the possession arrow was in their favor. A long inbound pass then went out off bounds off Murray, turning the ball back over to the Mountaineers with just .3 seconds left. But the ensuing inbound pass from North Murray also sailed out of bounds, giving Murray County one last hope.

Jones got a clear look at a deep 3-pointer as time expired, but it fell just short.

JD Ellis ended up leading North Murray with 11 points, with six coming in a crucial stretch in the fourth. Gavin Pittman and Beau Ellis each scored nine, and Isaiah Morrison had eight.

Braxton Vineyard led Murray with 16. Hawkins had 12 and Judah Woodall had 11.

North Murray plays top-seeded Model in the semifinals. North Murray split the season series with Model, winning 77-49 when the two played in Chatsworth and falling 64-50 on the road.