The Macon County High boys basketball team is trending back in the right direction.

The Tigers won for the third time in their last four games last Friday, pulling away late in the contest for a 66-54 victory over visiting Westmoreland.

“We’ve been putting a lot of extra time in the gym, some of the guys have,” Macon County junior forward Lake Reid said. “I really think with Trent (Cook) being back, it helps a lot. He takes a lot of pressure off us other guys.”

Cook – a senior forward who is one of the team’s most experienced players – missed seven games earlier this season due to a high ankle sprain. He has been back for the team’s last six contests.

Cook has helped the Tigers win three of their last four contests.

“I feel like we are playing good basketball,” Tiger head coach Jason Welch said. “I think we have improved. It’s a tough stretch starting next week. We have York (Institute), DeKalb (County) and Upperman to end the first half (of the district schedule).

“You play good people (competition) to get ready for that.”

Friday’s rematch was much closer than when the two teams played in Westmoreland, a 73-34 victory for Macon County on Nov. 19.

“They played really good tonight,” Welch said. “Coach Fitz (Corey Fitzpatrick) has them still battling and playing hard. They were coming off of a win (a 40-37 victory over DeKalb County).

“We knew (Eagle junior guard Kirby) Bickerton could shoot it. He made shots, and we left him open too much. That’s a team that still battles and plays hard.”

Reid added, “They were hitting a lot of lucky shots. They had some momentum going into the game. I don’t think we were rusty (from a six-day layoff). We were ready to play. They hit shots, and we didn’t hit as many (as in the earlier game).”

The Tigers (7-11) held a one-point lead late in the first quarter when senior point guard Kelton Ballou made a 3-pointer, starting a 17-6 run to conclude the first half.

Cook scored nine points in the second stanza, sinking a 3-pointer in the final minute of the half to give his squad a 27-15 lead by halftime.

Cook made 8 of 14 field-goal attempts and finished with a team-high 19 points.

Bickerton scored 10 of his game-high 26 points in the third quarter, helping to prevent the lead from increasing.

Then, Westmoreland (2-14) scored seven consecutive points early in the final period, a stretch that included 3-pointers from Bickerton and senior Jace Helson. That pulled the Eagles to within six points, and Westmoreland actually misfired on a 3-pointer that could have trimmed the lead to three.

“We played a lot of folks, trying to create more depth,” Welch said. “They banked in two 3-pointers where I don’t think they meant to.

“They have nothing to lose. They are battling. We got the baskets we needed.”

However, Macon County senior forward Clay West tipped his own missed shot in seconds later, sparking a 9-0 run. Tiger senior guard Cameron Welch made three free throws during that stretch, provided the assist on West’s transition layin and came up with a steal that led to two free throws by Ballou.

That extended the lead to 15 points with less than four minutes remaining, and the Eagles never got any closer than 11 points the rest of the way.

“We just have to refocus ourselves, realize we’re the better team and just go out there and play our game,” Reid said.

Welch finished with 15 points, 5 steals and 4 assists, and Reid produced a double-double of 12 points and 13 rebounds, connecting on 6 of 10 field-goal attempts.

Reid is in his first season as part of the starting lineup.

“All the coaches have talked to me,” Reid said. “They asked me to do a lot more with Trent being out.

“We all believe in each other. Since we all believe in each other, it’s just reflecting on the court.”

Jason Welch added, “He is getting over being timid. We are pushing him to go get it. He can be a really good player. He’s skilled. Early in the year, he turned it over a lot. Now, he’s making good decisions with the ball.”

Macon County shot 48 percent from the field, compared to 40 percent by Westmoreland.

The Tigers were 12 of 19 from the free-throw line, committed 15 turnovers and outrebounded the Eagles by a 34-28 margin.

“We had a lot of inexperience coming into the year,” Reid said. “Trent and Kelton have been battling injuries. Now that they’re back at it and healthy, it’s going to be hard to stop us.”

Westmoreland sophomore forward Ryker Hodge backed Bickerton’s production with 11 points, and Eagle junior point guard Dawson Mitchell provided 5 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists.

Macon County’s final nine regular-season games are against district foes. After playing at York Institute on Tuesday, the Tigers will host DeKalb County on Friday.

“We’re looking forward to district (games),” Reid said. “We’re ready to play.”

Macon County boys 66, Westmoreland 54

WESTMORELAND (54) – Kirby Bickerton 26, Ryker Hodge 11, Jace Helson 6, Dawson Mitchell 5, Collin Casteel 3, Parker Dunigan 3.

MACON COUNTY (66) – Trent Cook 19, Cameron Welch 15, Lake Reid 12, Kelton Ballou 9, Clay West 6, Connor Johnson 3, Ethan Jenkins 2.

Half: 27-15, Macon County. Three-point goals: Westmoreland 9 (Bickerton 5, Helson 2, Casteel 1, Hodge 1), Macon County 6 (Cook 2, Welch 2, Ballou 1, Johnson 1). Records: Westmoreland 2-14, Macon County 7-11.