METROPOLIS — Down by 17 points late in the first half Monday night, Massac County appeared headed for a one-and-done in its Class 3A regional.
Instead, the Patriots came up with a comeback few saw happening, bouncing Murphysboro out of the postseason with timely foul shooting and outstanding defense.
Zach Travis scored seven of his team-high 19 points in overtime and the Patriots advanced to a 6 p.m. Tuesday matchup against top-seeded Carbondale with a 60-56 decision.
In the second game, Marion continued its late-season surge by bouncing Carterville 63-37 to set up a semifinal contest with Mascoutah on Tuesday night at 7:30.
Marshon Merriel came off the bench to add 12 for Massac County (19-11), which beat the Red Devils (20-11) for the third time, but with considerably more drama than 56-48 and 56-44 wins during SIRR Ohio games.
“We just talked about making plays in the second half,” Patriots coach Joe Hosman said. “I think our halfcourt trap really bothered them.”
Massac County’s formula for erasing its huge deficit was two-fold: Aggressively attack the basket on offense and use a halfcourt 1-3-1 trap to disrupt the beautiful rhythm Murphysboro constructed en route to a 31-14 advantage in the last two minutes of the first half.
With taller, beefier players up front, the Patriots began a steady march to the foul line. They were in the bonus before the third quarter ended. The ability to convert at the line, coupled with Merriel’s eight points in the period, enabled them to cut a 36-21 margin down to 44-40 by quarter’s end.
Secondly, Massac County got plenty of mileage out of its halfcourt trap, as well as a 2-3 zone that limited the Red Devils’ penetration. Murphysboro went from making 50 percent of its first half shots to sinking only 10 of 29 attempts after halftime.
“We got the momentum and put some pressure on them,” Hosman said. “They missed some shots in the second half that they had been making in the first half. This game is all about making shots. It’s hard to guard Murphysboro man-to-man, but we still wanted to pressure them and speed them up.”
Junior guard Jase Mizell completed the rally by drilling a 3-pointer from the left wing with 2:37 left to give the Patriots a 51-50 edge. Jamarr McZeke tied the game by hitting one of two foul shots with 22.5 seconds remaining, ending a scoring drought of nearly four minutes for the Red Devils.
Murphysboro had a chance to win at the end of regulation. But freshman Calvon Clemons, who scored 19 points and again showed why he could be one of the best players in the area the next three years, missed a leaning 3-pointer as time expired.
Massac County went 9 for 12 at the foul line in overtime, Travis canning 7 of 8, and scored the first five points. The Red Devils drew within 56-54 on a 3-ball by Logan Evans with 49.8 seconds remaining, but were just 2 of 7 from the field in the extra period. Two turnovers in the last minute crushed their hopes.
Corbin Guthman also finished with 19 for Murphysboro, swishing four 3-pointers in the first half. But the Red Devils were crushed 33-19 on the boards and got to the foul line just 10 times, converting six.
Now the Patriots have to find another source of energy for their second game in as many nights against the rested Terriers.
“Carbondale’s the number one seed for a reason,” Hosman said. “We’re just going to have to eat some bananas and drink some Powerade, and get after it.”
Marion (19-12) got four 3-pointers and 16 points from Mitchell Jackson as it wore down game but undermanned Carterville. An 18-8 third quarter extended a six-point halftime advantage to 44-28, and the margin did nothing but grow as the Wildcats’ size limited the Lions’ attack.
Tyler Bittle paced Carterville (13-19) with 12 points.