For 40 minutes Saturday, the McMurry men's basketball team fought through a little bit of everything but came out on the wrong side of a 78-76 loss to East Texas Baptist.
The War Hawks took the court without head coach Zach Pickelman, and second-leading scorer Michael Imariagbe only played eight minutes due to foul trouble.
Backup point guard Rob Charles was limited to eight minutes due to an injury.
Through it all, McMurry (6-9 overall, 4-6 ASC) was in the game all afternoon.
"Michael only played seven and a half minutes," McMurry assistant coach Tyson Scott said. "So, learning to play without one of your best players is a great job. We had Colby Cork, he went down. He's a guy who's played a lot of minutes for us, it's good for us to find a way to be in games without him. Rob Charles went down. It's good for us to find a way to be in games without our backup point guard. We learned a lot from tonight, so we're going to continue to get better."
Scott took over head coaching duties in the middle of the week. Initially, it was expected to be just Wednesday, but turned into the rest of the week. After playing at McMurry, Scott began his coaching career there as a student assistant.
He then was a graduate assistant at Hardin-Simmons and served as assistant coach at Azle last year before returning to his alma mater.
"Thursday morning I got the call," Scott said. "We were talking back and forth and then I knew I had to step up. … I've known I wanted to be a coach my whole life. My dad's a coach. I knew it was going to be fun. I talked to some of my mentors and they told me to have fun with it.
"This group of guys is fun to coach. They play hard and get after it. I knew it was going to be a good time."
With the game tied at 21, the War Hawks went on a 9-0 run to take their biggest lead with 4:33 left in the first half. The Tigers (9-8, 7-5) chipped away and got a bank-shot 3-pointer just inside halfcourt at the buzzer to lead 33-32 at halftime.
ETBU's run continued into the second half and by the end of the 18-2 run, the Tigers held their biggest lead — also nine points — 43-34.
Five minutes into the second half, McMurry was back within one point and the battle continued. The final 15 minutes were played within five points, but was within three points most of the time.
Devon Webb gave McMurry its final lead of the game, 76-74, with 1:09 to play. The Tigers answered back with a basket of their own. A 1 of 2 trip to the free throw line gave ETBU a one-point lead, and the War Hawks' shot with four seconds left rimmed out.
After a foul, ETBU made one free throw again. The tigers deflected the inbounds pass, giving McMurry just one second to heave a three-quarter-court shot that bounced harmlessly off the backboard.
C.J. LeBlanc finished with a game-high 20 points while T.J Hilliard scored 18 and Remy Minor finished with 10. Different players stepped up at different times, including Matt Pena who hit three 3-pointers for nine points and Elias Garcia scoring eight.
"That's one of our mottos. It's written on the board, I'll rephrase it a little bit, tough people win," Scott said. "It's something we preach all the time. We try to get after it. We try to do something tough in practice every single day. We want to be able to fight through that adversity. Pressure makes diamonds or busts pipes. We're going to try to be tough, try to be some diamonds."
The loss snapped a two-game winning streak as the second half of conference play began. The War Hawks travel to Concordia on Thursday before going to No. 22 Mary Hardin-Baylor on Saturday.
McMurry will be going for the season sweep of Concordia, after winning 96-87 here, while they try to avenge an 86-67 loss to UMHB.
"We're always trying to improve, always trying to add stuff," Scott said. "We saw how they defended us with our style of play, what they're trying to do to us with our style of defense. That's basketball, that's part of being a coach. We're always trying to make adjustments to make our team better."
McMurry women fight, fall
The McMurry women kept things close against No. 20 ETBU, but couldn't pull off the upset in an 81-66 loss.
After being outscored 24-8 in the first quarter, the War Hawks returned the favor in the second. McMurry (0-15, 0-10) scored 21 points and held the Tigers to nine to trail 33-29 at halftime. But the third quarter swung the momentum back to ETBU as it then held off a fourth-quarter push from the War Hawks.
It was a closer game than the first meeting between the two teams, when the Tigers won by 44 points.
McMurry had a pair of players eclipse the 20-point mark, but no other War Hawks went for more than five points. Destiny Mathews scored 28 points to go with eight rebounds while Emily Holland finished with 23 points.
The War Hawks travel to Concordia on Thursday and No. 24 Mary Hardin-Baylor on Saturday.
Jordan Hofeditz covers Abilene high schools and colleges, Big Country schools and other local sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jhofeditz. If you appreciate locally driven news, you can support local journalists with a digital subscription to ReporterNews.com.
This article originally appeared on Abilene Reporter-News: McMurry men's basketball unable to overcome East Texas Baptist