The latest episode between Macks Creek and Climax Springs was as fun as any as the Pirates held on for a 68-65 road win against their neighbors down Route NN.

Rivalries can be fun.

The latest episode between Macks Creek and Climax Springs was as fun as any as the Pirates held on for a 68-65 road win against their neighbors down Route NN. Climax Springs sophomore Mark Henderson launched a shot behind halfcourt as time expired and the game-tying shot just missed the mark as the ball ricocheted off the backboard and rim at the buzzer.

It is a win Macks Creek coach Ron Duggan is thankful to have and one he and the Pirates will not take for granted. The Pirates shot 56 percent as a team at the free throw line and it was just slightly better than 47 percent from Climax Springs.

It may have been prior experience in some close games that allowed the visitors to prevail.

“I just think some of those games earlier gave them the confidence to know they could,” Duggan said after the win. “Even though things were not going quite our way and we were not making free throws, we were able to withstand the pressure they put on us. They (Climax Springs) did a great job and I’ve always said this is a hard place to win. A win here, no matter what it is, one point or 20 points is good by me.”

Macks Creek led by as many as 12 points in the third quarter and a 7-0 run in the fourth allowed the Pirates to lead by as many as 10. However, the Cougars ramped up the fullcourt pressure and forced 11 of Macks Creek’s 22 turnovers in the final frame alone to storm back and trail by two with less than a minute to go. Climax Springs senior Jessie McCartney missed a pair of free throws with 27 seconds left that would have tied the game and sophomore Sam Cline’s 3-pointer would have also tied the game with 5.9 seconds to go in a game the Cougars never led.

“Guys kept after it and we are getting there, it is a process,” Climax Springs coach James Butterfield noted. “We talked at the beginning of the year and we said we don’t care about winning this game or that game- we want to win the last game. If you are not getting better then saying that does not mean anything, but we are getting better and I am pretty excited about it.”

Both teams enjoyed some balanced scoring with three players on each team in double figures, but Macks Creek senior Hunter Lane’s 14 points in the first quarter and 10 points for the Cougars from Henderson set the tone for a fun battle from start to finish. Ultimately, every possession and every point proved to be vital and the Pirates even enjoyed a pair of buzzer beaters on a 3-pointer from Lane at the end of the first quarter and a 3-pointer from junior Tanner Smith before halftime. Of course, Henderson nearly tied the game in the end with his halfcourt heave.

Lane led all scorers with 33 points on the night and the 6-foot-4 senior’s talents were no secret to Butterfield as the Cougars sought to slow him down inside the paint.

“If he (Lane) posts you deep he is going to score, that is all there is to it,” the coach said, also pointing out that the Pirates had a few too many easy fastbreak opportunities. “In the second half we were a little more physical, did not let him go wherever he wanted and did a little better job. We still had to outrebound him and he is going to go after every rebound. I love watching the kid play.”

Lane also reached 1,500 career points on the same floor where he collected his 1,000th point as a junior. The senior is also not far away from 1,000 career rebounds as he continues to average a double-double for the Pirates.

“It is a privilege. Not very many people get here so it is a big privilege,” Lane said of reaching the milestone.

“I try to go for the rebounds and offensive rebounds come with points because you are right there two feet from the basket so you just go right back up with it.”

The progression of Lane’s abilities have also been fun for Duggan to watch and he is looking forward to seeing what the rest of the senior season has in store.

“He has done a really good job this year of posting up hard and calling for the ball. He wanted it and last year he floated through the middle a lot,” Duggan noted, also pointing out that the Cougars did not make things easy for him. “He is making it really tough for defenses and this stretch of conference games coming up, there is nobody that matches up with him. I would be surprised if he does not have close to 40 (points) every night.

“I love coaching him. He is a great kid and does whatever we ask him to do.”

Henderson was seemingly matching Lane point for point from the other side as he had a career night with 31 points for Climax Springs.

“He had a great game and we did not do a very good job of slowing him down,” Duggan said laughingly. “We played a zone against them and I don’t like a zone, but they are pretty quick and like to get to the hole so what we tried to do is force them to shoot outside. He did a great job of carving up our defense, getting to the rim and making some shots despite the pressure we were trying to put on him.

“My hats off to him, he played a great game.”

The exciting part for the Cougars is that Henderson is just a sophomore.

“At some point- and we are hard on him at times but we know what kind of talent he is- at some point a kid finally clicks over and goes, ‘I can do anything I want to do,’ and he is one of those kids,” Butterfield stated. “He is a nightmare on defense for people so he had a heck of a night.”

The scoring duel was just as fun as the game itself, but there were more players on the floor besides Lane and Henderson.

The Pirates got solid contributions from freshman Logan Gallamore who had 11 points, sophomore Austin Brown’s 10 points and eight points from senior Colton Walter.

“Austin stepped up and did a great job tonight,” Duggan said of the sophomore who sees limited varsity action and played a larger role when Walter dealt with some foul trouble. “It gives us a little bit different look out there on the floor and some of those plays were huge.

“Logan comes off the bench and he is not afraid,” Duggan continued, noting how the freshman’s efforts cooled down a Climax Springs run. “That kid has a knack for being around the ball so we love the way he plays. He is going to be a great player in his career.”

Macks Creek (10-6) heads to Pilot Grove Friday night and will look to maintain some momentum with tipoff scheduled for 7 p.m.

Climax Springs senior Pake Moppin and McCartney added 10 points each for the Cougars who fell to 8-7. Climax Springs will visit Fair Play on Friday at the same time.

“Everything hinges on the halfcourt offense for us so we knew that would be one area that would be a little bit behind. We don’t shoot exceptionally well and it is getting better every day because we are getting a little older every day,” Butterfield said of his young club, looking ahead.

“It is a mental thing in your halfcourt offense and trusting your shot, but they are coming all the time and getting better and better. You want to be ready for districts and let the chips fall where they may. We’ll be ready.”