MOUNT AYR — With Murray trailing 40-33 late in the third quarter, the Mustangs went on a quick 9-0 burst to take a 42-40 lead over Bedford at the beginning of the fourth quarter in a 66-55 win over the Bulldogs here Tuesday in a Class 1A District 12 semifinal.
Sam Rockhold started the run with a free throw and Andrew Rider hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 40-37.
But then, senior post player Pat Kilmer took the game over, scoring Murray’s next 11 points to help the Mustangs build a 48-44 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
“Pat’s athletic enough, he was finding the open spots and we were looking for him,” Murray head coach Darin Wookey said. “We were finding him in the post. We thought Noah (Thornton) might give him some fits a little bit, but I thought there in that third and fourth quarter, he took the game over and said ‘this is it.’”
With the defense converging on Kilmer, he hit Rockhold with a wraparound pass for a layup. Then Rockhold hit two more free throws, followed by another basket assisted by Kilmer, giving the Mustangs a 54-46 lead.
On the next trip down the floor, Rockhold repaid the favor, hitting Kilmer underneath the hoop for a basket.
“I thought Sam Rockhold did, too,” Wookey said. “Those two guys really stepped it up big down the stretch.”
Kilmer finished with a team-high 23 points for Murray, while Rockhold added 16. Combined, the two shot 13-of-15 from the free throw line, as the Mustangs shot 21-of-23 as a team.
Murray made 13 straight free throws to end the game.
“That’s probably a season best for us,” Wookey said. “That’s big. We’ve been shooting a lot of free throws and guys have been making them in practice. We’ve been shooting pretty well here in Mount Ayr. I hope we can keep doing that.”
Murray started the game on a 10-0 run en route to building a 12-3 lead.
But Bedford answered with a 20-0 run, taking a 23-12 lead with 5:26 to go in the first half. Murray eventually whittled that lead back down to seven at halftime at 34-27.
“We got up 10-0 and our kids kind of let their guard down a little bit,” Wookey said. “They picked up their pressure going fullcourt. That’s probably the first time all year we’ve seen those type of athletes come at you man-to-man. It took us about four minutes to get our composure together.”
After seeing Bedford’s fullcourt pressure erase an 18-point Central Decatur lead in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s district opener, Wookey didn’t want to fall into that trap. He told his team it need to concentrate on running its offense.
“Once we got our composure, we were OK,” he said. “I thought Rider and Kenny Boles stepped up big time tonight. Kenny, this is only his second start. He made a few freshman mistakes, but he’s playing at a high level right now when we need him to.”
The win, which improved Murray to 17-6, gives the Mustangs one final shot at third-ranked Bluegrass Conference rival Lamoni when the two teams meet in the district final on Thursday in Mount Ayr. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The Demons have defeated Murray three times this year, by an average of 24 points per game.
“Lamoni is a challenge,” Wookey said. “They’re a challenge for anybody and everybody they go up against. Probably the most positive thing we have going for us is we’ve seen them. Two of the three games we’ve had with them this year, we’ve had pretty good games with them. They got away from us late in the fourth in both those games, but we’ve hung around.
“If we can do that on Thursday, give ourselves a chance, who knows?” Wookey continued. “We know them probably as well as anybody does.”
BEDFORD (55) — Noah Thornton 8 5-5 23, Justin Folkerts 3 1-2 9, Colt Scott 3 0-0 9, Isaac Weed 3 1-4 7, Wyatt Dillon 2 0-0 4, Deion’tae Moss 1 1-2 3. Totals — 20 8-13 56. 3-point goals — 7 (Scott 3, Thornton 2, Folkerts 2). Team fouls — 18. Fouled out — Weed.
MURRAY (66) — Pat Kilmer 8 7-7 23, Sam Rockhold 5 6-8 16, Andrew Rider 1 6-6 9, Trey McHenry 4 0-0 8, Kenny Boles 2 2-2 6, Braydon Held 2 0-0 4. Totals — 22 21-23 66. 3-point goals — 1 (Rider 1). Team fouls — 14. Fouled out — None.
Bedford — 13 34 40 55
Murray — 12 27 40 66