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Bobcats pull out pull out close win over Rams

Perry County bragging rights were captured by the R. C. Hatch Bobcats (9-7, 2-1) Friday night as they handed the Francis Marion Rams (9-6, 3-1) their first area defeat, 64-61, before a standing room crowd.

Hatch knocked down 10-of-11 fourth quarter free throw attempts to hold off the charging Rams.

“Free throws can win a game and it can lose a game,” said Hatch head coach Homer Davis. “Each player shot one hundred free throws in practice yesterday and it paid off.”

The Bobcats, who led by as many as 16 points in the first half, allowed Francis Marion to slow the tempo of the game in the second half and get into its offensive sets. The Rams cut their deficit to one in both the third quarter and fourth quarters.

“We got caught in their game in the first half,” said Ram coach Lee Hollis. “We started to play our game in the second half, but a little too late.”

Francis Marion, whose offense relies perimeter shooting, drained nine 3-pointers in the contest.

The Rams began the game netting two triples, but the Bobcats followed with 12 unanswered points to take a 22-17 lead after the first eight minutes of play.

Hatch opened the second quarter with a 13-2run. Brandon Battle played a big role in the quarter as he exploded for 14 of his game high 24 points, but a determined Francis Marion team triggered a 10-5 run in the final two minutes of the half to go into the locker room down 46-39.

The Rams held Hatch to eight points in the third quarter to close the gap to 54-52 after 24 minutes of play. The Bobcats went with out a field goal in the fourth quarter, but made good of their free throws.

“We must become a better rebounding team,” added Hollis. “We gave up a lot of second and third chance shots,”

Battle also took rebounding honors for the game with 15 boards. Trent Askew pulled down 13 rebounds. Trent Tucker, who played his first game since breaking his ankle early in the season, finished with 13 points. Ernest Strothers added 10 for Hatch.

Jerome Smith led Francis Marion with 16 points. Ladarius Tabb chipped in 12 points and Ken Tabb contributed 10.