WEST FRANKFORT — Murphysboro extended a three-point halftime lead to 12 with 6:34 left and held on to remain unbeaten in the SIRR Ohio Division after a 60-56 win over West Frankfort on Tuesday.
"In the third quarter we got a little smarter defensively, and that got that lead," said Murphysboro coach Daryl Murphy. "West Frankfort played well tonight. They shot the ball well (23-39) and had a lot of guys step up for them that I didn’t think were capable of it."
Murphysboro (10-3) improved to 3-0 in the conference while the Redbirds dropped to 0-4. The Red Devils won the game at the line — making 15-of-22 for an 11-point differential — and on the perimeter, sinking nine 3-pointers to six by West Frankfort.
"Free throw shooting got us," said West Frankfort coach Kevin Toney, after his team went 4-of-15 from the stripe. "We have been shooting better from the line than our opponents, but tonight we didn’t. They also shot the ball very well from the perimeter. We knew they could shoot that well, but not as consistently as they did all night. We were out contesting a lot of those 3s, but they still hit them."
Jeremy House and Mishont Gibbs led the Red Devils with 19 and 15 points, respectively, including all of Murphysboro’s 3-pointers, with House making five.
"I average about three 3s a game, but tonight the corner was pretty lucky for me," House said. "At the half, coach told to us to block out and try to get the rebound, and that helped us to extend the lead."
West Frankfort (6-7) had cut a six-point Murphysboro lead with 3:28 left in the first half to one with 55 seconds remaining, but Tim Marston hit a jumper from the lane to give the Red Devils the lead, 31-28, at the half.
Murphysboro exploded out of the locker room, scoring the first seven points to take a 10-point lead in the first 2:51. Marston got it started with a layup at the 26-second mark. House kept it going with a 3-pointer from the right corner and Gibbs finished the run with a steal and a layup.
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The Redbirds whittled away at the lead, cutting it down to five with 3:26 remaining in the quarter, but a putback followed by a steal and a layup by Marston and a 3-pointer by Gibbs with 0.6 remaining extended the lead to 11 going into the fourth quarter.
House’s fifth 3-pointer of the game with 6:34 remaining gave the Red Devils it’s largest lead at 12.
Murphysboro was still leading by 11 with 2:17 left when the Redbirds made their final run. Austin Glodich started the rally with layup and Noah Allen kept it going with two free throws. Glodich and Allen led the Redbirds with 16 points each.
With 1:08 remaining, Kyle Hammers was fouled and made his first free throw attempt, but missed his second to cut the lead to six. The teams traded baskets for the next 26 seconds, then C.J. Johnson came off the bench and swished a 3-pointer from the left side to cut the lead to three with 25.6 seconds left.
"The kids always make sure they compete on either end of the floor," Toney said. "I’m proud of their effort and how they kept their composure. Despite being down by 12, we were still able to make a run."
After Murphysboro called a timeout, Jaron Gaston was fouled and he made both his free throws. After a missed Redbird shot, Gibbs was fouled and he made his first, but missed his second to give the Red Devils a six-point margin with 13.9 left.
It was bombs away in the first quarter, with both teams finding the bottom of the net from beyond the arc. Keagan Thrash got it started for the Redbirds with a 3 at the 40-second mark. Murphysboro came right back, with Gibbs swishing back-to-back 3s from the right side, but Thrash sank his second and it was tied after the first two minutes.
Murphysboro went on a 12-6 run, helped by 3-pointers by Gibbs and House, to give the Red Devils an 18-12 lead heading into the second quarter.