MORGANTON – Like the final Christmas present tucked away behind the tree, a win over the Draughn Wildcats was right there for the taking Wednesday.
The McDowell Titans just couldn’t figure out how to open it.
The Titans had numerous chances to seize the momentum late, but could never get over the hump in a disappointing 72-68 overtime loss to Draughn in the opening round of the Freedom Christmas Invitational Wednesday.
McDowell (4-4) played in the loser’s bracket Thursday, falling to Asheville Christian Academy 75-45. The Titans will try and avoid going 0-for-Christmas today at 1 p.m. when they take on East Burke for the third time this season.
In their first ever meeting with the Wildcats, the Titans trailed by nine at the half and by 10 in the second half before battling back to make it a nip-and-tuck battle down the stretch. There were seven ties and 10 lead changes in the second half and overtime.
“I thought the second half was a lot different from the first half,” said Titans head coach Brian Franklin. “Unfortunately, we’ve done that a couple of times this year. We waited until we got in a hole before we started playing with a lot of intensity and emotion, which I thought we did in the second half. I’d really like to see us play like that for the entire game. I think the outcome would have been different.
“It’s disappointing to lose a game like that, but I was proud of our effort down the stretch.”
McRary certainly did all he could do. The senior guard poured in a game-high 30 points, going 4-of-6 from 3-point range, pulled a game-high 11 rebounds and made a team-high four steals to go with two assists and a blocked shot. One of McCrary’s baskets was a clutch, mid-range jumper with 6.2 seconds left in regulation that knotted the score and sent the game to overtime.
Qualique Garner (6 rebounds) joined McRary in double-figures. Franklin said reserves Andruw Randolph (8 points, 4 rebounds) and Dequan Boyce (5 points, 2 steals) played well off the bench.
“I thought Dylan was great in the second half, and I thought Andruw Randolph and Dequan Boyce came in and gave us some good things,” said Franklin.
But the Titans struggled down low. Sophomore post Trent Lewis had six points and four rebounds before fouling out late, and senior forward Adam Randolph (3 assists) failed to score.
Meanwhile, Draughn got at least six points from seven different players. Daylin Pritchard led the way with 18 points and reserve post Isaac Walker had 11 points and a team-high nine boards off the bench. Jaylen Haney tossed in 10 points.
McDowell twice held a two-point lead in the fourth quarter, but the Wildcats forged ahead 63-61 in the closing seconds. The Titans forced a walk in the backcourt, and got the ball back with 12 seconds to go. McRary’s pressure-packed jumper from the right wing tied the game with 6.2 left, and Pritchard’s half-court heave missed at the buzzer.
The Titans owned a 66-65 lead on a Garner free throw with 2:46 to play in the extra period, but a basket by Dillon Robinson gave Draughn the lead for good at 67-66 with 2:38 to go. After a McDowell turnover, Pritchard hit a 3-pointer for a 70-66 lead with 2:05 to go.
The Titans got no closer than 70-68 the rest of the way, and Robinson made two free throws with 8.9 seconds left to make it a two-possession game and seal the deal.
Draughn (72) Dillon Robinson 3-5 2-2 8, Daylin Pritchard 6-11 3-6 18, Jaylon Haney 4-16 2-2 10, Eli Poteet 2-4 4-4 8, Jeremiah Daye 3-8 0-0 7, Caustin Dillon 2-5 0-1 4, Isaac Walker 4-7 1-1 9, Noah Gray 2-4 2-3 6. Totals: 26-60 14-19 72.
McDowell (68) Qualique Garner 3-16 6-7 14, Adam Randolph 0-4 0-0 0, Trent Lewis 2-9 2-2 6, Dylan McRary 10-24 6-8 30, J.C. Olivo 2-11 0-0 5, Dequan Boyce 2-3 1-2 5, Richard Handy 0-1 0-0 0, Andruw Randolph 3-3 2-2 8, Trenton Gragg 0-3 0-0 0. Totals: 22-74 17-21 68.
Draughn 11 22 17 13 09 – 72
McDowell 10 14 23 16 05 – 68
Rebounds: DHS (43) MHS (36) Rebound leaders: DHS (Haney 9) McDowell (McRary 11) 3-point goals: DHS (6-21) MHS (7-20) DHS (Robinson 0-2, Pritchard 3-7, Haney 0-5, Poteet, Dillon 0-1, Daye 1-2, Walker 2-3) MHS (Olivo 1-5, McRary 4-6, Garner 2-7, Gragg 0-2) McDowell assist leaders: (Olivo, Ad. Randolph 3) McDowell steals leaders: (McRary 4) McDowell blocked shot leaders: (Gragg 2, McRary, Lewis 1) Turnovers: EHS (28) McDowell (19) Fouled out: EHS (Haney 2:46—OT) MHS (Lewis 2:48—fourth)