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Matt Hamilton/The Daily Citizen

With two seconds to play in the Region 7-2A boys basketball tournament’s consolation game, North Murray needed a big shot to avoid overtime, beat Calhoun, clinch third place and bounce back from a disappointing loss in the semifinals.

And when Tyler Duckett’s 3-point shot found the bottom of the net Saturday afternoon at the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center for a 51-48 North Murray victory, Mountaineers coach Eric Bishop’s confidence in the senior guard was reinforced.

“We wanted the ball in his hands,” Bishop said. “He was 100 percent true from behind the arc tonight. We have several shooters who could make the shot, but it’s ideal if he gets it.”

Just before Duckett’s winning shot, Calhoun’s Ben Lamb hit a 3-pointer of his own with 17 seconds remaining to tie the game at 48. The shot capped a steady rally for the Yellow Jackets, who trailed 41-31 to start the fourth quarter.

But the Mountaineers found a way late, something they’d struggled to do in a 59-53 loss to Coosa in Friday’s semifinals.

“We were working off a letdown from last night,” Bishop said. “I felt like we had more to give last night, so we had some on reserve for tonight.”

Calhoun coach Derrick Broom said he was proud of his team for playing so hard.

“Our guys gave all they had,” he said, “but you have to give credit to North Murray. They hit the big shot when they needed it.”

The first quarter was quiet for both sides — North Murray exited the period with a 10-5 lead — and that wasn’t exactly a surprise to Bishop. It’s also likely something he’ll hope to fix quickly as the Mountaineers look toward the program’s first trip to the Class 2A state tournament, which starts this Saturday with a road trip to the No. 2 seed from Region 8.

“We have a tradition of starting off slow,” Bishop said, “and we can’t do that.”

“We have a tradition of starting off slow,” Bishop said, “and we can’t do that.”

North Murray led 27-21 at halftime. Despite their rally in the fourth, the Yellow Jackets led only once, when Greyson Arnold’s 3-pointer put them up by a point with 5:10 to play in the second quarter.

Arnold was an offensive powerhouse for Calhoun and scored a game-high 21 points.

“He can take over a game quick,” Broom said. “We need him to continue that at state.”

Saturday’s win was North Murray’s third this season against Calhoun, and the closest by far. The Mountaineers won 80-59 and 65-48 during Sub-region 7B-2A play in the regular season.

Calhoun’s strategy to beat the Mountaineers was the same as it has been for opponents all year — try to limit North Murray’s Zach Vess, a 6-foot-5-inch junior center.

“That’s always their first option,” Bishop said. “The team then has to deal with it, and the guys handled it well. They weren’t pressed without him.”

With Vess getting extra defensive attention down low and the injury bug making its presence felt — Drew Mosteller and Jeremy Smith are both currently sidelined — Bishop looked to his bench to step up. One player he turned to was senior Cody Malone.

“He’s awesome,” Bishop said. “He’s a big contributor.”

Malone finished with 10 points and four rebounds.

“We played as a team and came together,” Malone said. “I played my role and played my minutes, and I’m ready to go to state.”

Rest is on the mind of both coaches as they prepare for the opening round of state.

“We played three games in a row,” Bishop said, “and we’re tired. I know Calhoun’s tired too.”

Said Broom, “We’re taking Monday off. We need to recuperate. Seven games in a week is a lot.”

Duckett finished with 18 points, and Brady Swilling added 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Lamb added 17 points for Calhoun.

In Saturday’s other Region 7-2A tournament games at the trade center, Coosa beat Dade County 87-65 to win the boys region championship, Model beat Calhoun 35-33 to take the girls championship and River Ridge beat Dade County 45-44 in the girls consolation game.

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