By Michael Lindsay
The Stone Memorial Panthers kept their spotless District 7AAA record alive Friday evening as they overcame an early road deficit to win at DeKalb County, 57-53.
“We knew coming in that these guys were going to play with a lot of pride,” said SMHS head coach Neil Capps. “We got off to a slow start and were kind of going through the motions early. They were ready to compete and we weren’t.”
Stone Memorial (17-3, 7-0) was led by 19 points from Matthew Bilbrey and 13 by Cade Capps. DeKalb County had three players in double figures led by Conner Close with 16, Elishah Ramos with 11 and Stetson Agee with 10.
DeKalb County (10-10, 2-5) took control early as they held a 10-5 lead late in the first period. A Ramos three-pointer put the Tigers up 13-7 to end the first quarter.
Stone Memorial caught up to DeKalb County with 5:05 left in the second period as a Conner Bowman three-pointer tied the game at 20.
The Panthers wouldn’t take the lead in the second quarter, however, as DeKalb County held a narrow 25-24 halftime advantage.
“We might have taken them for granted, and that’s not something we can do,” Capps said. “We’re going to get everybody’s best effort. This is a good lesson for us; we can’t just show up.”
Stone Memorial finally broke through with 6:12 left in the third as a Bilbrey basket put the Panthers up 26-25.
The basket was the first of a 19-5 Stone Memorial run to give the Panthers a 43-30 lead after three quarters.
With the game almost out of reach, DeKalb County answered with a quick 12-3 run to start the fourth period, cutting Memorial’s lead to 46-42 midway through the quarter.
“We have to continue to make plays,” Capps said. “We missed some free throws and then had a defensive miscue to give up a wide-open shot. It goes from 13 to 4 just like that. We got it to 13 and lost focus. We underestimated DeKalb’s fight.”
Stone Memorial withstood the Tiger run and pushed their lead to 52-46 with 1:05 remaining via a pair of Bilbrey free throws.
Ramos answered with a corner three-pointer to cut the game to one possession (52-49) with 57 seconds left. Following a free throw and defensive stop, Bilbrey again hit two free throws to put his team up 55-49 with 36.6 seconds remaining.
The team then traded 1-2 trips to the free-throw line, making the score 56-50 with 15 seconds left and DeKalb County with possession.
Ramos again kept the Tigers alive as he sank a deep three-pointer with 10 seconds remaining, cutting Stone’s lead back to one possession (56-53).
Following a quick foul, Bilbrey hit one final free throw to push Stone’s lead to two possessions, sealing the 57-53 win for Stone Memorial.
Up next for the Panthers is a home game against cross-town rival Cumberland County (4-18, 2-5) on Tuesday.
DeKalb County hits the road to White County (13-9, 3-4) on Tuesday.
Stone Memorial (57): Matthew Bilbrey 19, Cade Capps 13, Preston Mayberry 8, Wyatt Grothe 5, Blake Holt 5, Conner Bowman 3, Brady Lane 2, Jayden Eldridge 2
DeKalb County (53): Conner Close 16, Elishah Ramos 11, Stetson Agee 10, Robert Wheeler 9, Zach Birmingham 7