In a time when the Hawks needed someone to step up, Robert Montgomery responded, giving Myrtle a comeback victory over Hickory Flat, 72-71, Saturday night.
Down 71-70 with 5.3 seconds remaining, Montgomery drew a foul, the fifth for the Rebels’ Henry Bell, and confidently hit two free throws to put Myrtle in the lead and eventually give them their seventh win of the season.
“That’s what Robert and Russ (Yates) have to do in order for us to be successful,” Myrtle head coach Jonathan Ashley said. “They have to make plays and big shots and clutch free throws. If we’re going to be any good, that’s what they have to do.”
The game seemed out of reach in the first half, as Hickory Flat went on a 17-3 run to end the first quarter ahead, 21-7. Jamerson Kizer extended the Rebels’ lead to 20, 37-17, with his free throws, and Hickory Flat stayed ahead, taking a 44-26 lead to the half.
“Basically, we challenged them on if they’re going to be men or not,” Ashley said of his halftime talk. “The team that had the most effort and played the best won the first half and the team that had the most effort and played the best in the second half won that half. We were fortunate that we won by one more than them.”
Both teams traded baskets to start the second half, preceding a 14-0 run by Myrtle to pull within two, 46-42. The Rebels held a six point lead heading into the fourth before the Hawks took their first lead since the opening quarter, 61-60, off free throws by Montgomery. Hickory Flat responded with a 9-0 run, but Myrtle did not back down with Montgomery scoring the final nine points for the Hawks.
“We came out in the second half, and we knew they would respond,” Hickory Flat head coach Michael Seger said. “They have a great coach, and we traded blows for much of the second half; they made a run, we made a run. You have to give credit to their kids and their coaching staff. Montgomery really carried them on his back with his 15 points in the fourth quarter.”
Montgomery scored a game-high 28 points for Myrtle (7-5) while Russ Yates added 16 points and Steven Taylor 11. Kizer and Bell were the leading scorers for Hickory Flat with 19 and 15 respectively.
The match-up is one of several that are bittersweet for Seger, as the former Ingomar standout is well acquainted with the rivalries of the county. Having played under the Ashley’s and now against them has helped the young coach grow in his first season at the helm of the Rebels’ program.
“I had the privilege of playing under the younger Coach Ashley my junior and senior years, and I feel like I learned a lot from him and maybe got some of my intensity from him,” he said. “Hickory Flat and Myrtle’s a bigger rivalry than I thought while I was at Ingomar and to get to go up against him and his team, it’s a game we really wanted to win. He’s a good coach, and I’ll be a better coach for having coached against him.”
Myrtle also picked up a commanding 86-62 win over Ingomar Friday night, led by 19 points by Montgomery. The Hawks built a 24-7 lead after the first quarter and did not look back, as four players scored in double figures.
After Montgomery, Cruz Weatherall scored 18 points, followed by 10 points by both Yates and Steven Taylor. Wesley Jumper led Ingomar with 24 points, followed by 11 from Denzel Siddell.
Myrtle will ride a three-game win streak to East Union on Thursday.