If size alone could determine the outcome of a basketball game, then the Putnam County War Eagles didn’t stand a chance against the Tucker Tigers on Thursday.

Tucker seemed to believe this was the case, as they launched one 3-pointer after another, some from more than 20 feet away.

But that is, as they say, why you play the games.

The War Eagles struggled against the Tigers’ defense, turning the ball over and missing what open shots they had.

“We missed 25 layups,” said head coach Jack Williams. “If we make those shots and our post guys score, we are in the ball game.”

At times the War Eagles looked uncertain about what they were doing on the court, even a little scared.

“I think they were intimidated by their big guys,” Williams said. “The last two games we’ve lost have been against tall, physical teams.”

The Tigers jumped out to a 9-0 lead but the War Eagles battled on, driving down lanes that weren’t there towards a goal defended by what at times looked like giants.

Although the War Eagles could not erase the Tigers’ early lead, they hung with them, going into the half trailing Tucker 25-15.

In the third quarter, the game began to change. Whatever fear the War Eagles had of the Tigers, they left in the locker room.

“I told them that we are only down 10 points to the No. 1 4-A team in the state of Georgia,” Williams said. “If you stay focused and do the things you’ve been taught we can win this game. You just have to believe.”

Then it was Tucker’s players with the confused looks, it was Tucker’s players who were committing unforced turnovers and it was Tucker’s players missing open shots.

The War Eagles went on an 8-0 run to pull within six points. The Tigers stopped shooting 3-pointers and started taking their competition seriously.

The Tigers turned the game over to Cameron Tatum – who led all scorers with 22 points – and they slowly pulled away from the War Eagles.

“We did a good job against (Tatum),” Williams said. “We defended well. We just missed too many shots under the basket.”

Tucker’s best weapon may not have been Tatum, but head coach James Hartry’s decision to hold the ball and run down the clock.

The Tigers held the ball the final 45 seconds to take the last shot of the first quarter and again with 1:30 left in the second quarter, drawing looks of disgust and smiles from the Tigers’ players and a chorus of boos from the crowd.

“I don’t care,” Hartry said, standing in front of his bench with his arms crossed. “I’ll win 25-15.”

Hartry wanted his team to hold the ball the last minute of the game, but Tatum, annoyed at the War Eagles who would not just lay down, drove to the basket for one last shot. He missed.

In the end the final score was 50-37 in favor of the Tigers, but Williams said his team learned an important lesson.

“We can play with anyone,” Williams said.

“I’m proud of the way we played,” Williams added. “They believed and they never gave up.”

Putnam County’s next game is Tuesday against Baldwin in Milledgeville at 8:30 p.m.

To reach Isaac Godfrey, call him at (478) 453-1463.

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