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Longhorns halted in region final by Southern

The Longhorns proved unable to overcome Southern Academy’s press defense and hot shooting Friday night as the Cougars ran to a 75-70 victory in the championship round of the AISA Class AA West Region Tournament.

“Our legs were definitely tired,” Marengo head coach Danny Stenz said. “You’ve got a team like Southern that presses like they do and presses wel. It definitely took a toll on us.”

The game was the third in as many days for the No. 2 seed Longhorns who defeated Patrician and Meadowview to get to the game.

Marengo trailed 54-45 heading into the fourth quarter. Despite increased pressure on the defensive end, the Longhorns were unable to convert at both ends on consecutive possessions, never pulling closer than a six-point deficit until the final possession of the game.

“Every time we’ve ever played this team, it’s always been close,” Southern Academy senior Coleman McLendon said. “We’re all good buddies. So that just makes it even better.”

played this team, it’s always been close,” Southern Academy senior Coleman McLendon said. “We’re all good buddies. So that just makes it even better.”

“Us and Marengo are so close to one another as far as athletes,” SA head coach Shaun Bonds said. “Effort is what wins you the game. When you fullcourt press, you cause a lot of turnovers by giving that.”

The win sends Southern to next week’s state championship in Montgomery as the No. 1 seed from the West Region.

“We go hard Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday,” Bonds said of the Cougars’ preparation for round one of the state tournament which will take place Friday at Faulkner University. “We’ll be ready.”

Conversely, Marengo will enter the bracket as the No. 2 seed from the West.

“A hard game like that always helps us get ready for the tournament,” MA senior John Carlton said of the loss to Southern. “It’s going to help out a lot. Getting a whole week of rest will certainly help our shots fall.”

Carlton was named to the all-tournament team along with fellow Longhorn senior Dustin McIntyre. Southern landed McLendon and Sam Kelley on the team. McLendon was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.

“Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve always been in the gym shooting,” McLendon said of earning the award. “It’s exciting.”

Despite the loss, Stenz was enthusiastic about his team’s performance throughout the three-round tournament.

“They came in and they were determined,” he said of his players. “I couldn’t ask a whole lot more out of them.”