Hagerstown’s boys basketball team’s depth was tested on Friday.
When its two big men fouled out in the fourth quarter of that game, head coach Bobby Jones and his players didn’t panic. Others stepped up.
An all-around team effort added another first to the Tigers’ collection this season.
A week after Hagerstown’s first victory over Union County in a decade, the Tigers ended a 17-game losing streak to Centerville, including Wayne County and sectional tournaments, with their first victory over the Bulldogs since 2001-02.
The Tigers are 5-0 for the first time since the 1996-97 season and were last 3-0 in the TEC in 2001-02 before falling to 3-1 with a loss at Winchester.
Every one of this season’s TEC victories has been a tough one, and every one of them has ended in similar fashion.
At Lincoln, Nov. 30, 62-58 victory: Bryan Mathews hits a wide-open 3-pointer that gives the Tigers the lead for good, 55-53 at the time.
At home vs. Union County, Dec. 7, Tigers rally for a 55-53 victory: Mathews with a fade-away 3 gives Tigers the win with 5.3 seconds left to play.
At Centerville, Dec. 14, winless there for more than a decade: Mathews’ 3 puts Tigers ahead for good and a few free throws later, Tigers are 5-0.
“He hit the big shot to give us the lead and Bryan’s not afraid to take the big shot, and that’s OK. We need him to do that — hit or miss — we need him taking those shots,” Jones said.
Mathews finished the night with a team-leading 17 points last Friday, but he’s not the only weapon.
Before fouling out, Tyler Black finished with a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds, while Thorin Stage finished with 13 points, Kain Grose and Daniel Charles with five and Cole Bartlett with four.
Stage, Charles and Mathews all made fourth-quarter free throws, while Bartlett, a Division I baseball commit and the quarterback who led Hagerstown to a perfect regular season, was a key defender.
“I was very proud of Daniel Charles and Thorin Stage stepping to the free-throw line, and knocking down the free throws,” Jones said. “Cole Bartlett was just a man on defense all night long. … The poor kid’s got floor burns all over his body, and Cole knows no other way but to play 110 percent every time he’s on the floor.”
The Tigers put the perfect start on the line this week as they travel to the Caston Shootout, which runs Wednesday through Saturday.
Oregon-Davis plays Caston on Wednesday and Morgan Township and Kankakee Valley face off that day, too.
The Tigers face Rensselaer at 8 p.m. Thursday and Northfield and Lowell square off.
Semifinals are Saturday at 1 p.m. and the championship is that night at 7:30 with the third-place match at 7:30 and fifth- and seventh-place games at 6.