MURRAY Perhaps more so than any other team in the state, the Murray Spartans know that a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter does not guarantee a victory.
On four separate occasions in region play this season Murray has squandered late double-digit leads, only to hold on and win three of those games. Of those four collapses, the only game the Spartans lost was at West, so it's not surprising that they were so pumped about Friday's rematch.
This time around late-game poise did not allude Murray. It built a double digit lead early in the fourth quarter and stayed mentally strong the rest of the way in a convincing 67-53 victory over West.
"Our team was extremely poised," said Murray coach Jason Workman. "I thought that was the key for us, because we've struggled a little finishing games."
Murray's Markus Duran finished with 21 points, while teammate Rhett Gardiner chipped in with 18. The win propelled the Spartans into sole possession of third place in Region 6 at 6-3, with Granger leading the pack at 8-1 and Olympus closely behind at 7-2.
"In our league everybody's right there, with a lot of interesting games left," said Workman. "All these games are really good for that separation. There's going to be a lot of jostling, and we want to be on the positive side of that."
Friday's game was all about runs, not exactly an oddity with Murray's up-tempo offense. The Spartans jumped out to a 17-10 lead after one quarter, and eventually upped it to 29-16 with 1:34 remaining in the half capitalizing on West's poor shooting.
Within two minutes, however, the lead virtually vanished. A couple of steals helped West cut the lead to 31-25 by halftime and the momentum continued into the third as it whittled the lead to 31-29.
Behind five points each from Duran and Gardiner and a 3-pointer from Cameron Hodges Murray responded with a 12-0 run to reclaim the cozy 43-29 lead.
Workman was particularly pleased with his team's patience during the critical stretch.
"We'll play a good tempo, but there's a difference between playing fast and rushing shots, and I thought we only rushed a couple shots," he said.
West tried to make it interesting in the fourth cutting the lead to 48-40, but a charging foul on West's Tana Afeaki and the resulting technical foul on head coach Bob Lyman helped Murray increase the lead to 51-40 and it never looked back.
In the loss, West had four different players score in double figures, led by freshman Tyrell Corbin's 12 points.