After an unconventional start to the season, the Marshall Christian boys’ basketball team has come on strong of late, and closed the regular season as the Alabama Christian Athletics Association’s No. 2 team, earning an automatic bid to the state tournament in Oxford this past Thursday.

The Stallions finished the regular season with a 16-4 mark, including a perfect 9-0 record on their home floor, but had to wait until a forfeit win in their final scheduled game to wrap-up that automatic bid to the tournament.

“To be honest, at the beginning of the year we didn’t play real well,” Marshall Christian Coach Phillip James said. “Some of that was taking the job late, kids playing football, but probably since Christmas we’ve been playing as good as anybody in the state. We’ve beat teams that beat us earlier in the year, and we beat them by 20 or 30 points.”

James credited a couple of simple things for the turnaround since the holidays: cutting down on turnovers, and becoming better on the glass, rebounding on both ends. Combine that with their offensive acumen, where the Stallions averaged over 70 points per game on the season, and they’re clicking on all cylinders.

But there are two big challenges that await the Stallions ahead of the tournament: A long layoff after their regular season finale was wiped out, and a huge contrast of styles from the Southern Division teams they might see in the tournament.

“We called a practice for Sunday because we didn’t know if we’d be able to practice Monday or Tuesday,” James added. “Having to prepare for the teams we might play, the teams from the south play a totally different style we play. They want to keep the game in the 30s and 40s and drag it out. We try to play up-tempo and in the 70s.”

The Stallions played the winner of Valley and Adeullam in their opening game on Thursday at 5:30 p.m., and a win would push them into the state semifinals, where a potential showdown with Southern top-seed Clay County could await.

Another challenge that awaits the Stallions and any team who makes the trip to Oxford, is the grind of playing three games in three days, but James says the his team at times can go 10 deep, and that he feel comfortable no matter who is on the floor for his squad.

“I feel like depth-wise we’ll be ok,” James said. “We’ve got our main players but I have confidence in players coming off the bench if we get in foul trouble or something happens.

“We were excited about being the two seed going in, for three games in three days, it’s going to be tough, but it’s going to be tough, whether that’s us or whoever it is, somebody has to win three games in three days.”

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