Craig Harris/Macon County Times Red Boiling Springs sophomore forward Omarion Williams elevates for a layin along the baseline as Smith County’s Isaac Dick challenges and as Matthew Enoch looks on. Williams scored all 8 of his points in the first half.

Craig Harris/Macon County Times

Red Boiling Springs sophomore forward Omarion Williams elevates for a layin along the baseline as Smith County’s Isaac Dick challenges and as Matthew Enoch looks on. Williams scored all 8 of his points in the first half.

CARTHAGE -- The Red Boiling Springs High boys basketball team started strong and finished strong.

That helped the visiting Bulldogs to overcome a third-quarter lull in a 57-46 win at Smith County on Nov. 27.

"We lost focus," RBS junior guard Mason Hix said. "We didn't come out ready to play (in the second half). We thought we already had it put away. We were nonchalant. It kind of started slipping a little."

However, the Bulldogs responded by getting the ball inside though, turning a lead that had dwindled from 17 points to one point back into a double-figure margin.

"Every timeout, that's what we talk about, getting it in the paint," Hix said. "It just started clicking."

The Owls made a concerted effort to prevent RBS junior Dalton Marsh from receiving the basketball, playing a zone defense that consisted of one player attempting to stay in front of the 6-foot-7 center at all times. Marsh entered the contest averaging 32.9 points per game.

That led to first-half opportunities for other players, with Hix and sophomore teammate Omarion Williams penetrating that zone to create scoring opportunities. Both players scored 8 first-half points.

"We did a good job," Bulldog head coach Michael Owens said. "We work on that with Omar and Mason and (Matthew) Murphy ... we have some guys who can work on the baseline.

"We wanted Marsh to walk them (the defenders) up one more step, and that kind of opens that up. We just have to find those seams in that zone and make shots, but we were patient."

Hix and Murphy accounted for the game's first 6 points, and Marsh scored the final 4 points of the first quarter for a 14-5 lead.

The margin swelled to 26-9 after junior James Sampson came off the bench to sink a 3-pointer, followed by two free throws from Murphy.

Tanner Marshall's one-handed shot off the glass trimmed the lead to 11 points, but Hix tossed in another 3-pointer at the first-half buzzer for a 31-17 lead.

However, Smith County scored 13 consecutive points beginning midway through the third quarter and extending into the first minute of the final period.

Marshall opened the fourth-quarter scoring with a 3-pointer, and he stole the ensuing inbounds pass. Teammate Isaac Dick converted a layin seconds later to pull the Owls to within a point (37-36).

"We came out in the third quarter ... Marsh missed two free throws, and Omar missed a layup," Owens said. "We had an opportunity to go from 31-17 to 37-17, but we didn't do that. Smith County made a couple of shots, and they're in it.

"You have to play with some urgency. It's good to be able to learn from that and win instead of lose. We have two more games before it gets real (when district play begins). We have to keep playing well."

Marsh responded by scoring the next five points, and Hix penetrated to the basket along the baseline for a layin to re-establish an 8-point lead.

"Coach pounds that on us in practice, high-percentage shots," Hix said. "Don't take the outside shot. Try to get it in the paint. Play inside-out."

Then, midway through the final period, Hix and senior point guard Hunter Kirk made back-to-back 3-pointers to create an 11-point cushion.

Hix finished with a career-high 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Marsh provided 14 points and 14 rebounds.

However, RBS connected on just 16 of 30 free-throw attempts.

"You have to take care of the ball and make free throws, rebound and play defense in the last two minutes, and you're not going to lose," Owens said. "We made 7 turnovers tonight, so we did well there.

"Everybody who played gave us something positive tonight. All nine guys contributed in some way to help us get a big win on the road."

The Bulldogs improved to 7-0 with the victory.

"We expect to go 9-0 into Pickett (County, which was the team's district opener on Tuesday), and we don't plan on stopping there ... we want to go as far as we can go," Hix said.

Owens added, "We can do some things a little better defensively. We're going to have to get to where we can play some zone and man (defense). We work on it in practice. Right now, we're playing man. We have to get to where we play some match-up zone, and we have to be solid. I'm pleased. We didn't put up 75 or 80 points (against Smith County), but that's not going to happen every night."

Red Boiling Springs boys 57, Smith County 46

RBS (57) – Mason Hix 21, Dalton Marsh 14, Omarion Williams 8, Matthew Murphy 7, Hunter Kirk 4, James Sampson 3.

SMITH COUNTY (46) – Tanner Marshall 19, Austin Ducrest 10, Isaac Dick 6, Dennis West 5, Cody Kemp 4, Matthew Enoch 2.

Half: 31-17, RBS. Three-point goals: RBS 5 (Hix 3, Kirk 1, Sampson 1), Smith County 5 (Marshall 3, Ducrest 2). Records: RBS 7-0, Smith County 0-4.