MARSHALL — Maybe feeling a little disrespected and somewhat overlooked, Nick Stewart rose to the top just like cream here Tuesday night at ETBU’s Ornelas Gymnasium.
The freshman point guard came off the bench to score six of his team-high 17 points in the fourth quarter as the Spring Hill Panthers broke away late to nab a 78-64 Class 4A bi-district win over the Rusk Eagles.
Spring Hill (22-12) advances to 4A Area action to face Mabank at a site and time to be determined.
The Panthers, which had led by as many as 15 in the first half, got the job done from the free throw line in the waning moments to secure the decision.
Rusk rallied from nine down in the final eight minutes, pushing Spring Hill to the brink, following Anthony Hunter’s three-point conversion to make it 64-66 with 0:46.8 left.
The Eagles literally imploded on the subsequent inbounds play and got tagged for not one, not two, but three technical fouls.
Stewart, who was fouled on the inbound that opened the door to the back-to-back-to-back Ts, dropped in his two free throws.
Kyren Miller proceeded to can five of six from the stripe and a precarious two-point advantage swelled to 73-64 with 0:42 to play.
Rusk’s gameplan was simple in theory. The Eagles stuck tight to both Miller and Tyler Caron for most of the evening.
This necessitated that others step up for Spring Hill. Stewart led the charge, but he was far from alone.
Kiante Stoker netted seven of his 12 points in the pivotal final frame, including a clutch three-point play on a Taylor Dishman assist with 2:51 remaining.
“They made a concerted effort to take Tyler and Kyren out of the game and my other kids came through in the clutch,” said Panther boss Tim Ender. “Those free throws down the stretch were huge. I think if we’re up in any ballgame we’ll be hard to beat if it comes down to free throws.”
The Panthers, as a team, converted 13 of 17 from the line in the fourth quarter. All totaled, they made good on 20 of 29 freebies.
“I told my kids to stay under control and keep their composure and make sure we win the game in the end. That’s exactly what we did,” Ender said.
After three first quarter ties the Panthers went on a 10-2 run in the second. Stewart drove the lane for a bucket, Caron, who wound up with a hard-earned 15 points, sank a couple free throws at 3:42.
Exavier Hinton got a basket courtesy a Stewart assist and Dishman finished off a fast break with an easy layin at 2:56.
The Eagles responded in kind with a 10-0 spurt of their own and went to the half down 38-33.
Rusk took a brief lead in the third after a couple free throws from Darrian McDuff. Baskets from Casey Mudoh, Stewart and Hinton to close the third made it 49-43 going to the fourth.
Article written and provided by Etvarsity.com