Craig Harris/Macon County Times Macon County High freshman guard Braydee Brooks shoots a first-quarter 3-pointer.

Craig Harris/Macon County Times

Macon County High freshman guard Braydee Brooks shoots a first-quarter 3-pointer.

The Macon County High School boys basketball team didn't allow a disappointing loss to Clay County linger when the Tigers opened District 8-AA play last Friday evening.

The Tigers established a first-half lead and gradually pulled away for a 56-39 victory over visiting Smith County at Nera White Gymnasium.

"We got into the gym," Macon County senior point guard Kelton Ballou said. "We told ourselves we were tired of losing.

"It was the first district game. We wanted to start out 1-0."

Macon County suffered a 70-34 loss three days earlier.

"Our defense was really solid (on Friday)," Tiger head coach Jason Welch said. "The effort was super good.

"Coming off a bad Tuesday, you wonder if they are going to fight, but everything was good."

Macon County (2-3) scored the final six points of the first quarter on Friday and never trailed again.

Trailing 10-8, Tiger senior forward Trent Cook had back-to-back baskets, thanks to passes from Ballou and classmate Cameron Welch. Then, Welch penetrated into the lane in the final seconds of the quarter and found Ballou open for a layin and a 14-10 lead.

"We were working on being good with (the basketball), not turning it over," Jason Welch said. "We were trying to get Kelton and Cameron downhill (driving to the basket) and getting Trent the ball in position.

"Cameron was good. He had five assists at halftime and hadn't taken a shot."

Then, two free throws from Cook, a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Ethan Jenkins and a Clay West free throw created a 20-10 margin less than two minutes into the second quarter.

The Owls responded by scoring the next seven points to pull back to within three points, but Ballou scored the final four points of the half, sinking two free throws and then converting on a transition opportunity to create a 28-19 lead at halftime.

"That's our best way to score is in transition," Ballou said. "We're fast. We have a lot of guards. We like to get out and go.

"We didn't make any (halftime) adjustments. We came out and said that this first four minutes, we have to come out and get them early. That will decide the game."

Macon County sophomore guard Ethan Jenkins converted a three-point play in transition late in the third quarter, starting a 10-2 run that concluded with Ballou's 3-pointer early in the final period. That extended the lead to 44-26.

Junior forward Lake Reid also contributed offensively during that stretch.

The Tigers pulled away despite losing Cook to a third-quarter injury.

"I'm super proud of Lake," Jason Welch said. "He's really versatile.

"Trent Cook was playing so good. Then, he turns his ankle."

Smith County didn't get any closer than 16 points after that.

"The bench was really good tonight," Jason Welch said. "Everybody played their position well."

Ballou and Cook finished with 12 points each, and Welch provided 11 points.

Macon County connected on 23 of 32 free throws.

The Tigers limited the Owls - who were led offensively by point guard Tanner Marshall (15 points) - to 34 points before they scored their final five points over the final 35 seconds, with Macon County reserves in the game. Smith County shot just 28 percent from the field.

"We knew that (Marshall) and (Matthew Enoch) were going to be aggressive, and we knew (Smith County forward) Isaac Dick would rebound," Ballou said. "We just made sure we went out on them and boxed out well."

Jason Welch added, "They do have some nice pieces. Kelton and Cameron matched up with Marshall, and he had to work to get 15 points. That's a nice job. He's a really nice guard."

The Tigers continued district play with a game at Watertown on Tuesday, which will be followed by a home game against Cannon County on Friday.

"I hope this is a step in the right direction," Jason Welch said. "We hope to keep playing good basketball."

Ballou added, "We believe in ourselves. Our shots aren't falling right now, but I have full confidence in our team, that we can go out and be one of the top competitors in our district."

Macon County boys 56, Smith County 39

SMITH COUNTY (39) – Tanner Marshall 15, Matthew Enoch 9, Isaac Dick 7, Austin Ducrest 3, Dante Mosley 3, Dennis West 2.

MACON COUNTY (56) – Kelton Ballou 12, Trent Cook 12, Cameron Welch 11, Lake Reid 8, Ethan Jenkins 7, Braydee Brooks 3, Clay West 3.

Half: 28-19, Macon County. Three-point goals: Smith County 5 (Marshall 3, Ducrest 1, Enoch 1), Macon County 3 (Ballou 1, Brooks 1, Jenkins 1). Records: Smith County 0-5 overall, 0-1 in District 8-AA; Macon County 2-3, 1-0.