After nearly two months away from action, the Marlboro County High basketball team had a lot of rust to brush off as they hosted Manning Tuesday night.
Fortunately for the Bulldogs, the Monarchs were just as mistake prone. Marlboro survived a late Manning rally for a 57-54 win in the region opener for Marlboro.
"There were a lot of turnovers, fouls and missed free throws by both teams. With just a few practices to get things back together, its not surprising," said MCHS head coach LaTroy Brace.
"The boys battled through a tough game and we pulled out the win to start the region play. It was ugly but we'll take it. We needed the competition and a tight game to keep us humble," he said.
Manning started the game with a two-point advantage as the Bulldogs were called for a technical foul before tip-off. It was the first of many trips to the free throw line that the players would make during the evening.
After a slow start, the Bulldogs finally took the lead on a three-pointer by senior guard Devonta Oliver with 4:30 left in the period.
After building a five-point advantage at 13-8, the Bulldogs cooled off. Manning surged back to tie the game at 14 early in the second quarter.
Fueled by three-pointers by Dre Scott and Shawn Lucas the Bulldogs built a seven-point lead, only to have the Monarchs trim it to four with a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer.
Oliver ignited a run with a three-point bomb to open the second half. The Bulldogs surged to a nine-point lead, only to have the Monarchs claw back into it with accurate outside shooting.
Keiran Leviner nailed two three-pointers and scored on a drive to again push the lead to nine at 41-32.
However, Manning went on a 12-2 run late in the third and early in the fourth to take their first lead since the first quarter at 44-43.
After the Bulldogs pulled back ahead, Manning recaptured the lead at 51-49 with four minutes to play. After Oliver tied the score with a pair of free throws, Leviner gave the Bulldogs the lead for good with a three-pointer from the baseline.
Scott scored on a drive and Tyler Thomas added a free throw to push the lead to 57-52 with 23.6 seconds left.
Manning quickly scored on a drive to the basket, then regained possession after a Marlboro missed layup. The Monarchs got off two three-point attempts but could not connect on the potential tying basket.
Scott led the Bulldogs with 18 points. Oliver added 12 and Leviner finished with 11. Prince Johnson scored 6, Lucas 5 and Thomas 1.
"It's a blessing to be able to still play and compete for a state championship. We know what we need to work on and we'll fix that before the game Friday against Camden," concluded Brace.
There wasn't nearly the drama in the varsity girls' contest as Marlboro raced to a double-digit lead in the first quarter and never looked back.
The girls, who were playing their first home contest of the season, thrashed their guests, 71-38.
Tysonia Lowe led the Marlboro attack with 26 points. Senior Jasmine Norman added 24. Baylee Barfield added 8, Lanique James 5, TaNiya Hairston 4, Montayja Isaac 2 and Isheondra Powell 2.
The Bulldogs were coached by Deon Quick, who filled in for head coach Leah Zimmerman, who was out with an illness.
Athletic director Bobby Collins was on the phone during the night, discussing with other region members how to complete the season.
As of press time the Bulldogs only officially have two more games, at home Friday against Camden and next Wednesday at Lake City.
However, Sumter County schools are returning to class next Monday, which will allow Lakewood and Crestwood to also play in the region season.
Collins hopes to schedule one of two Sumter schools for a home game next Friday, February 5. They will finish on the road on Tuesday, February 9 against the other Sumter school.
The playoffs will begin the next week, with only two schools from each region making the post season.