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Cougars win thriller in Christiansburg

By RODNEY YOUNG, 530013_437485132944537_279580370_n-1SWT Sports Writer

Christiansburg – Coming off a big win this past Saturday against Floyd the Cougars play perhaps their best half of basketball this season versus the Blue Demons to take an impressive 36-19 halftime lead.  The second half was a different story but the Cougars held on for thrilling 59-58 victory.

The Cougars had just six turnovers in the first half but committed 12 in the second. They held the Demons to just 19 points for the first half but gave up 20 in the third quarter.  Yes, it was a game of two different halves.

Three Cougars finished in double digit scoring.  Lonnie Mattox led the way with 16 points, while Marcus Burks had 13 and Cam Merchant came off the bench to contribute 12 points.  The victory evened the Cougars record on the season at 6-6 and 3-3 in district play.

Christiansburg (2-10) got 17 huge points from Matt Herndon and 13 from reserve Ronnie Piemonte.

The Blue Demons came out on a 8-0 spurt in the first minute of the second half to cut the Cougar margin to 36-27. The Cougars answered with a 6-0 run to up the lead to 42-27, but the Demons would outscore the Cougars 12-5 to end the quarter with Pulaski County up 47-39 going into the fourth quarter.

The Demons would use a full court press and then double team the ball, and Pulaski County kept turning the ball over.  Christiansburg would cut the lead to 55-52 with 3:30 to go.  Piemonte hit a big 3-pointer to cut it to one, 55-54, with 2:30 remaining.

Malik Eaves hit one of two free throws to up the margin back to two, then Josh Moore hit a jumper at 2:10 to go and the score was tied up at 56 each. Tyler Blevins would hit a bucket and the Cougars would go back up 58-56 at the 1:58 mark.

A Grant Vitaliano jumper tied it at at 58-58 with 1:25 left, and then the Cougar’s Isaac Poe stepped up to the line with 42 seconds to go and missed both freebies. After a couple Demon missed shots Cam Merchant was fouled.  He missed the first but hit the winning second shot to go up 59-58.

Christiansburg called time out with seven seconds left but they missed not one but two shots and the Cougars secured the road win.  It may have not been the prettiest, but it was and is a win.

“We got in some foul trouble in the fourth quarter and had a letdown after halftime,” said Cougar Head Coach Mark Hanks.  “Mentally we didn’t stay in the game.  If you’re up 10 points you need to try to go up 20.  We haven’t gotten to that point.  Their (Christianburg) pressure and trap hurt us in the second half.  It was a bad case of nerves.”

“A close win hopefully will give us some confidence,” said Hanks.  “Last week we should have won a game on the road and it slipped away. Tonight we got a victory that maybe we shouldn’t have.”

The Pulaski County junior varsity won their sixth straight with a 55-51 victory over the Christiansburg JV.  The young Cougars are now 9-3.

They were led by Brad Church’s 16 points.  Kevin Smith and Bryant Grubb scored 11 points each.  Evan Austin had 7 points,  Elliott Brewster had 5 points, and Hunter Thomas scored 3 points.  Jake Clary rounded out the scoring with 2 points.  The Blue Demons got 15 points from Alec Anderson.

The Cougars play the Salem Spartans in the Cougar Den Friday night, with the junior varsity tilt starting at 5:30 and the varsity game at approximately 7 p.m.