Ty free throw

As a capacity crowd watches, HHS senior Ty Franklin shoot a free throw during the third quarter of the Tigers' loss to Licking Monday night in Hiett Gymnasium.

As Licking beat host Houston 72-56 in front of a capacity crowd Monday night in Hiett Gymnasium, the Tigers’ season-opening contest was characterized by two primary aspects: A rare singular scoring performance and fouls – lots of fouls.

Licking senior forward Wilson Murray poured in a career-high 51 points to lead his team to victory. Meanwhile, the 2-man officiating crew inexplicably called 65 fouls in the contest – 33 against Licking and 32 against Houston. But no-calls were also an issue throughout most of the game, as the referees frequently chose to blow their whistles when light contact was made and then allowed major contact to go unnoticed.

The 6-4 Murray began his offensive onslaught by scoring 11 points in the first quarter and never relented. With a series of driving baskets and shots from both short and long range, he added 17 points in the second quarter and 9 in the third, before closing out his historic performance with 14 points in the final period.

Murray sank two 3-pointers in the contest and went 17-for-24 from the free throw line.

“To be quite honest, we were terrible defensively,” said HHS head coach Jim Moore. “We cannot allow one person to beat us like that. Now, one person is probably not going to stop Murray, but we had five out there. We just didn’t do a good job of communicating where he was at, we lost track of him all night and we didn’t do a good job of helping off on him and making him kick the ball to somebody else.

“That was the game plan going in, and it didn’t happen. Not to take anything away from Murray, because he had a heck of a game, but there’s no reason to give up 51 to any player.”

Houston scored only 8 points in the first period, as Licking employed full-court defensive pressure that prevented the Tigers from getting into their up-tempo rhythm.

“We got off to a real slow start,” Moore said. “We didn’t handle their press very well early and we allowed them to slow it down. That’s not how we want to play. We have to get better and dictate the way teams play us and not just play the way they want us to play.”

After trailing by as much as 25 points in the third quarter, the Tigers made a couple of runs to close the gap in the fourth period, but the deficit proved to be too big.

“I thought we picked it up later in the game and did some really good things,” Moore said. “When we were able to get out in transition, they had a hard time keeping us from getting to the hole. We’re definitely at our best when we’re able to get out and run and we’ve got to get to a point where teams have a hard time slowing us down.”

Noah double-teamed

HHS junior Noah Gulick moves the ball at the baseline while being double-teamed during the third quarter of the Tigers' loss to Licking Monday night in Hiett Gymnasium.

Moore coached hard from beginning to end, as Murray kept striking and the fouls and no-calls kept mounting. As the game wore on, both coaches and many members of the home crowd became highly irritated with the officiating.

The prolific foul-calling also made it hard for the Tigers to play incorporate their fast-paced style.

“We like it when we get several possessions in a row without stopping,” Moore said. “We couldn’t get into a rhythm with the whistles blowing almost every time down the court.”

Senior forward Ty Franklin and sophomore forward Brody McNew led the Tigers in scoring with 13 points apiece, while junior center Korbyn Tune had 11 and junior guard Noah Gulick added 6. Murray was the only Wildcat to score in double figures.

Coach Moore

HHS head coach Jim Moore addresses his players during a timeout in the fourth quarter of the Tigers' game against Licking.

Six players fouled out in the game, including 4 from Houston and 2 from Licking. A whopping 82 free throws were shot in the contest, with Houston going 27-for-42 from the line and Licking going 27-for-40.

Franklin and Tune are the only two players on this season’s HHS squad with significant experience.

“We’ve got a lot of guys getting their first look at big situations,” Moore said. “There are going to be growing pains, but we need to be able to win games like that and we need to figure out how to be more mentally tough.

“But we’re learning and I think we’ll be all right. If we get into a similar situation again, the same thing won’t happen.”

Next up for the Tigers is a game against Alton at 1 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 28) in the annual Current River Shootout at Van Buren.

Staff writer

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Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email him at ddavison@houstonherald.com.

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