Massac County shrugged off the mild, late season funk that had seemingly set in to torch a good Herrin Tiger team last Friday night by a score of 57-41.
Herrin held an 8-3 lead before Zach Travis got things rolling for Massac. After a Travis triple and free throw, the Pats were off and running. Julian Russell went on a tear, and the Pats dropped six three-pointers on the Tigers to take a 21-19 first quarter lead.
After a torrid first quarter, the Patriots slowed down the pace a little and methodically extended their lead to 34-25 at halftime.
Luke LeQuatte, Herrin's talented 6'5" post man, was nursing a "game" left ankle coming into the game and after a third quarter slip-and-fall had to leave around the 4:00 mark. With him went Herrin's hopes of staging a comeback, and the lead continued to swell.
After scoring only eight points in the third quarter, Herrin found themselves behind by 17 points entering the final frame, and it didn't take long before the "white flag" came out and both benches emptied. The shooting, which had been largely missing lately, was back and the defense locked down Herrin's offense, sans LeQuatte, for a big conference win.
Saturday night had the Patriots in Benton in another big conference battle. Things started well for Massac with Russell doing the heavy lifting with 10 of his 12 points in the first quarter.
A 16-10 lead at the first quarter looked promising for Massac, but Benton had other ideas. Massac got quick buckets from Trajen Keyes and Kyler McIntosh to open the second frame for a 20-12 lead. Things went sour after that.
Reece Johnson keyed an offensive run for Benton, and the Rangers ratcheted up the defense to shut Massac out for over six minutes in the second quarter and take a 21-20 halftime lead. Massac responded well in the third quarter and outscored Benton 11-10 to tie things up at 31 with the final eight minutes to decide things.
For Massac that final eight was a nightmarish repeat of the second quarter. A Keyes triple at the 6:18 mark gave Massac their last lead of the game and ultimately their last points of the contest as Benton held them scoreless for the remainder of the game and a 43-34 win.
The shots that fell Friday against Herrin rattled out at Benton as Massac went 3 for 17 from the 3 point arc.
The loss creates an interesting leaderboard in the SIRR Ohio division. Murphysboro currently sits atop the heap with a 7-2 record, both losses coming at the hands of Massac County, with a three way tie below them with Benton, Herrin and Massac all at 6-3. If Benton can knock off Murphy Friday night, and Massac and Herrin both win…voila… a four-way tie for the Ohio title.
Massac was in action Tuesday night at Eldorado in a non-conference tilt with the Eagles and will finish out the regular season at home Friday night against West Frankfort.
The Eldorado game started about like the game at Benton ended as the Pats managed just eight first quarter points for an 8-8 tie.
But then things got "Sweatty" as JJ Sweatt and Keyes took over. When the dust settled at intermission, Sweatt had amassed 15 first half points, Keyes had added seven and the Patriots held a 33-21 lead.
Eldorado dropped three triples on Massac in the third quarter and reduced the lead to just eight going into the final frame. The Eagles continued to fight and trailed by only five with five and a half minutes left.
Back-to-back buckets by Travis and Sweatt pushed the lead back to eight and a pair of free tosses by McIntosh got it back to 10 points. From there, Eldorado was in a hurry to score and struggled. Sweatt's final bucket of the game pushed the lead back to thirteen where it settled.
The 62-49 win pushed Massac's record to 23-6 and didn't affect the conference standings. Sweatt led Massac with 21 big points, and a fine floor game, while Keyes added 11. Travis also reached double figures, and McIntosh just missed with eight.