Tharptown rally falls short against Paint Rock

By Staff
Mike Self FCT Sports Editor
THARPTOWN – The Tharptown Wildcats nearly commemorated their first-ever game on the varsity level with a monumental comeback before ultimately falling 63-50 to Paint Rock Valley in Tuesday night's season-opener.
Tharptown (0-1) fell behind by as many as 18 points in the first half before rallying to within three on a putback by Drew Ergle in the closing seconds of the third quarter.
The Wildcats out-scored Paint Rock 35-23 in the second and third quarters combined to get back in the game.
"We didn't really make any adjustments. We just started playing harder," Tharptown coach Jonathan Odom said. "I hate to use the excuse that we're playing mostly eighth and ninth graders, but the truth is our guys were a little shell-shocked early in the game. I remember from when I played how much greater the speed of the game was going from the B-Varsity level to varsity, and these guys are going straight from junior high to the varsity level. It's going to take some time for them to adjust."
The Wildcats struggled against Paint Rock's pressure defense early in the game, falling behind 13-0.
"We made so many turnovers early on, and that's what they live and die off of," Odom said. "They were able to get out in the open floor and get some easy baskets. What they were doing tonight is ultimately how I want us to be able to play, getting the ball up and down the court."
Tharptown trailed 21-6 after one quarter, but Ergle had nine points in the second quarter as the Wildcats trimmed the lead to 31-20 at the half.
In the third quarter, the Wildcats began to exploit the Pirates' full-court press and get some easy baskets of their own in transition.
"We started getting the ball out a little quicker in the second half," Odom said. "In the first half, we were waiting for them to get set up and then trying to bring the ball up the floor. We started attacking a little more in the second half."
Manny Ricardo, who spent most of the first half on the bench in foul trouble, had seven points early in the third quarter as Tharptown went on a 13-6 run to close the gap to four at 37-33.
Paint Rock stretched the lead back out to nine, but two free throws by Mackinley Flannagin capped off a 6-0 spurt by the Wildcats that made it 42-39 with 34 seconds left in the third.
The Pirates opened the fourth quarter with an 8-0 run to push the lead back out to 11 and regain control. Tharptown got no closer than nine points the rest of the way.
Ergle finished with 21 points to lead the Wildcats.
"I'm proud of Drew. He played as hard and as well as I've ever seen him play tonight," Odom said. "The biggest thing he did was go after the ball. If he was on the right block and the rebound came off on the other side, he went after it. He was just really aggressive."
Tyler Cagle added 12 points for Tharptown, and Ricardo had eight before fouling out with just less than five minutes remaining.
"Having Manny in foul trouble hurt us," Odom said. "We miss him on offense, but the biggest way he helps us is on defense with his length and athleticism."
Justin Graves had four points, and Trevor Hallmark added three.
Tharptown was scheduled to play at Belgreen on Thursday.