CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — Despite putting up huge offensive numbers, Clarksville Academy wasn’t exactly hitting on all cylinders Monday night.
In three of the four quarters, the Cougars put up 20-plus points. They had two players score more than 20 points, and another nearly got to 20.
But Clarksville Academy allowed Merrol Hyde to have its way in the post in the first half as five Hawks players scored in double figures. Merrol Hyde kept the game tight throughout until the Academy put it away in the final 2:49 to claim an 83-73 victory Monday night in a boys varsity game.
“This team is going to be able to score the basketball,” said Matt Wallace, Clarksville Academy coach. “We can put up the points, but what I’ve stressed to our kids is that you have to be able to play defense. And for us, it’s just the little things. It’s help-side defense, it’s moving your feet and it’s about keeping your man in front of you instead of allowing him to turn the corner and get into the lane. We had a lot of fouls and a lot of turnovers, but that was mostly from not playing well on the defensive end.”
Wallace felt his team was a little flat and may have overlooked Merrol Hyde as the Cougars prepare for the start of their District 10-A schedule against Jo Byrns on Tuesday.
“We were looking past to that game,” Wallace said. “We didn’t have the focus to start the game. Our energy was there, but we came out and took quick shots and didn’t let the game come to us.”
But the Cougars benefit from having three elite scorers in Austin Fisher, Kennie Wade and Donovan Boatright. Fisher led the way with his second straight game of 30-plus points. He had 38 in a game last week and followed that with 31 Monday against the Hawks. He knocked down four 3-pointers and also dished out five assists. Wade added 22 points and six rebounds, while Boatright finished with 19 points and seven boards.
Zach Shanting led the Hawks with 22 points, while Jenard Taylor finished with 14 points and seven steals. He was particularly disruptive to Clarksville Academy’s offensive sets, jumping passing lanes and tracking down loose balls after deflecting passes when the Cougars were poised for transition breakouts. Clarksville Academy had 11 turnovers in the first half and 19 for the game.
Merrol Hyde had a 9-7 lead early in the game before Clarksville Academy unleashed 11 straight points to take control of the game. The Cougars outscored the Hawks 21-4 for the remainder of the first quarter, including four straight 3-pointers. Fisher had two of his four treys during that stretch, while Boatright knocked one down and Noah Clayton added another as the Cougars led 28-13 at the end of the first period.
But Merrol Hyde got back into the game after trailing 34-21 with 4:42 left in the first half. Shanting and Taylor led the charge by scoring eight of the Hawks’ 10 unanswered points late in the first half to close within 34-31. Shanting’s two foul shots at the end of the first half cut the Cougars’ lead to one, 38-37.
The Hawks took a brief second half lead with 4:56 left in the third quarter when Kyle Richardson hit the second of consecutive 3-pointers to put Merrol Hyde in front 45-44. But it was short-lived as Clarksville Academy responded with back-to-back baskets. The game was tied at 53 with two minutes left in the third, but the Cougars held a 59-55 advantage after the third quarter.
Connor McCutchen’s 3-pointer got Merrol Hyde within 69-65 with 4:21 left in the game, but the Cougars kept the Hawks at bay, knocking down 6-of-9 from the foul line in the final 1:40 to seal the win.
“Ideally we want to hold opponents to 55 points in a game,” Wallace said. “Allowing 73 points is just too much. I don’t know if our guys thought we’d just roll in here and roll over Merrol Hyde, but that kind of attitude will get you beat. So we’ll improve on the defensive end particularly.”
Reach Prep writer George Robinson at 931-245-0747 and on Twitter @Cville_Sports.