McClain’s Preston Saunders (#10) was one of two players to lead McClain with 17 points in their overtime win over Paint Valley, Thursday at MHS. (HCP Photos/Jim Jones)
McClain’s Preston Saunders (#10) was one of two players to lead McClain with 17 points in their overtime win over Paint Valley, Thursday at MHS. (HCP Photos/Jim Jones)
The McClain varsity boys basketball team improved their overall record to an impressive 13-5 on the season with a hard-fought and exciting 58-56 overtime win against non-conference foe Paint Valley Thursday night.

It was a total team effort for McClain, as the Tigers had to overcome an outstanding offensive performance by the Bearcats junior guard Cordell Grubb, who scored a game-high 26 points that included 15 from behind the arc.

“We really felt like we had the game pretty well in hand for most of the night, but frankly it took some high drama for them to stay in it, and Grubb is a very tough cover for anyone,” McClain head coach Joe B. Stewart said. “We were right there on his shots, but he just dead-centered them, and that’s to his credit.

“But to our kids’ credit, we’re down and they’re holding the ball, and our guys still find a way.”

McClain led 14-12 after one period, with Preston Saunders scoring five and Wes Potts adding four to lead the Tigers.

The game continued to be closely contested in the second period, with the Tigers outscoring Paint Valley by the slimmest of margins, 13-11, to take a 27-23 advantage at the half. Saunders continued to have a hot hand for McClain and tallied 11 points to pace the Tigers’ scoring effort in the first two periods.

Both teams continued to trade baskets early in the third quarter until Kendyll Toney and Potts had back-to-back buckets to give McClain a 37-32 lead, but Grubb drilled his second long ball at the buzzer to cut the deficit to just two points at 37-35. Toney was the offensive catalyst for the Tigers in the frame, scoring six of McClain’s 13 points, while Grubb scored eight in the period, giving him 13 for the game at that point.

The fourth period would be the one with the most offensive fireworks by both teams.

McClain started quickly with five straight points on a jumper by Saunders and an old-fashioned 3-point play from Toney to give the Tigers their largest lead of the contest at 42-35.

Paint Valley answered with four quick points of their own to close the gap back to three at 42-39 with just over five minutes remaining in regulation.

Both teams matched basket for basket and point for point over the next three minutes until Camden Closson and Saunders both scored, pushing McClain’s lead back to six at 52-46. But Grubb scored Paint Valley’s last 11 points down the stretch, the last coming on an off-balanced 3-pointer from the top of the key to send the game into the extra period after both teams missed opportunities to win on their last possessions.

“Paint Valley stretched us tonight. It was a physical and highly motivated game that they really wanted to play, and we were on the verge of being comfortable a couple of time, but obviously made some errors with the basketball that we just can’t make,” Stewart said. “I felt like gosh, any moment, one more bucket and we’ll stretch it out and shoot free throws at the end and everything will be fine, but boy, it didn’t work out that way at all.”

The Bearcats scored first in overtime with Dax Esteep converting one of two free-throws for a 56-55 lead at the 3:23 mark of the 4:00 extra session.

Neither team scored again until Saunders put the Tigers back in front with a breakaway layup after a steal with only 40 seconds remaining. McClain senior Lyle White made one of two free throws at the end to seal the victory.

“This was not a game you evaluate with math, but with heart and hustle, and our guys found a way and we’re just tickled to death,” said Stewart “We shook 22 turnovers out of them and only had 11 of our own, and when you look at a two-point game in overtime, those extra chances are probably the difference.

“To win this one on our two seniors Camden Closson and Lyle White’s last home game is pretty special.”

McClain was led by Preston Saunders and Kendyll Toney, who scored a team-high 17 points each. Wes Potts turned in a fine all-around game and also reached double-digits with 10. Rounding out the scoring for the Tigers were Braden Wright 8, Camden Closson 5 and Lyle White 1.

McClain was also a very respectable 10-of-13 from the foul line for 77 percent.

Paint Valley was led in scoring by Cordell Grubb with his aforementioned game-high 26 points, followed by sophomore Dax Estep, who added 12.

McClain will close out the regular season on Monday, Feb. 22 when they travel to Jackson and then open sectional tourney play at New Lexington on Thursday, Feb. 25.