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McConley powers Battle past Abingdon in M7 tourney

By JOHNNY WILSON, Sports Correspondent • Feb 12, 2019 at 1:07 AM

ABINGDON — Rebounding is a big deal as is playing good defense, but the game Dr. James Naismith invented more than 100 years ago has always been about shooting the basketball, and that’s OK with Cayden McConley.

McConley was the difference Monday, displaying his sweet shooting stroke all evening to push visiting fifth seed John Battle to a 68-59 win over No. 4 Abingdon in the opening round of the Mountain 7 District boys tournament.

A 5-foot-10, 135-pound guard, McConley knocked in five 3-point jumpers — one of which turned into a four-point play — and finished with 28 points.

“He’s a super kid and a super ballplayer and he knows the game, which helps a lot,” said Battle assistant coach Steve Posey, standing in for coach Jon Odum, who was undergoing a scheduled medical procedure at Duke University. “But the other guys on the team need to step up, too, and tonight they did.”

Abingdon coach Casey Johnson, who saw McConley pour in 39 points against his club a year ago, knew what was coming. The senior made three 3s in the first half, helping Battle (14-9) grab an immediate edge it never surrendered.

“He was shooting it from a couple feet behind the (3-point) line but still, we knew that coming in,” said Johnson, son of legendary Emory & Henry coach Bob Johnson, for whom Posey starred over 30 years ago “We didn’t guard him like we needed to early and we let him get going, and with a tough scorer, once you let him get going there’s not a lot you can do.

“We certainly battled them but just didn’t make plays we needed to make at various times throughout the game. Battle just played better.”

THE CLINCHER

Up 30-28 at halftime and 40-36 after three quarters, Battle held a 52-50 edge when it finally gained total control with a 9-0 spurt in the game’s final three minutes, beginning with a Jamie Preas jumper and ending with two free throws from 6-foot-6 Doug Logan, who was solid all evening.

Free throws by McConley and Issac Deel gave Battle its largest lead at 64-52.

Deel backed McConley with 15 points and Reed Samuel had 11.

The Falcons (10-13) were led by the 13-point game of Jake Thacker. Chase Hungate and Kirk Nairn both scored 11.

UP NEXT

Abingdon plays in the Region 3D tournament next week in Salem against Cave Spring.

Battle plays in the Mountain 7 semifinals Wednesday against host Gate City.

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