KIDWELL - After a pair of hard-to-swallow losses last week, Tyler Consolidated coach J.C. Kimble had a closed-door meeting with his starters Monday and stressed the importance of coming away with a victory Tuesday night against visiting Wirt County.
And after letting a near game-long lead slip away in the fourth quarter, two of those starters, senior Cole Kocher and freshman Jace Reed, made sure their coach got what he asked for.
Kocher was 8 of 10 from the free-throw line in the final eight minutes, scoring 12 of his team-high 19 in the period, while Reed buried three free throws with 1.3 seconds to play to provide the Silver Knights with a heart-pounding, 66-63 victory against the Tigers at Tyler Consolidated High School.
"I had a good talk with the starters and I told them we lost a couple of tough games last week and it was time for them to put up or sit down," Kimble said. "Then we went out a had a great practice and came back and got a good team win."
Kimble's Knights (3-8) led 14-11 after a quarter and built as much as an 11-point, second-quarter lead before settling for a 29-23 lead at the break. Tyler again pushed the margin to nine in the third, 44-35, but was up only 46-43 after three.
That is when things really got interesting. Leading 50-45 with 5:49 to play, Kimble reinserted sophomore Kordell Stewart into the game for an inside presence. Stewart had scored six points in the first quarter before getting into foul trouble and sitting most of the second and six more in the third prior picking up his fourth foul in that period.
The 6-foot-2 forward lasted a little more than a minute, and with him out of the game, the Tigers (1-7) were able to take their first lead since a 4-0 advantage. That lead came on a Ricky Conley put-back with 4:05 to go that made it 52-50.
After that the teams exchanged leads four times were were tied on four more occassions, including 63-63, following a Kalob Bell free throw with seven seconds remaining. Tyler worked the ball down court and Reed attempted to get off a 3-point try, but was fouled in the act of shooting.
The freshman, who had missed 6 of 11 tries from the line to that point, calmly stepped up and swished all three for the final outcome. A long pass was intercepted at the buzzer.
"When Stewart fouled out and we had Austin Thompson on the bench, we couldn't buy a rebound with the smaller lineup," Kimble said. "And give Wirt credit, they were busting their tails to get to the basketball.
"But you have to keep playing and we did that. Cole (Kocher) really stepped up big and gets the game ball for this one with his play in the fourth quarter. And what can you say about a freshman that steps up and probably only needs to make 1 of 3 to win the game, but nails them all?
"Overall, I have to say it was a pretty good night."
While Kocher finished with 19 and Reed added 17, Stewart scored 12, Dillon Reynolds nine and Swen Scheidemantel pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds.
Both teams finished with 44 rebounds while the Tigers had one more turnover with 20. But the biggest differential came at the free-throw line where Wirt County was 9 of 19 while the Silver Knights hit 22 of 38 attempts.
"The No. 1 point of emphasis for us coming in was rebounding, and it took us until the fourth quarter to start doing it," Wirt coach Tim Murray said. "We have a lot of seniors on this team, and 13 games left, and they have to know we have to come out ready to play from the beginning.
"Tyler Consolidated was ready to play from the start and we were not and that was the difference in my mind. They were just more mentally prepared."