After scoring just two points in the second quarter, Blueitt came alive again in the third to help the Panthers to a 17-2 spurt that gave them a 43-26 lead with 4:35 remaining in the third.
Again, the Generals showed signs of life by finishing the period on a 15-8 run that closed the gap to 51-41. Senior Marquise Parrish started an 9-0 run with an offensive putback, followed by a pair of McEwen buckets and a Aham Yennes 3-point play.
After three straight Blueitt points ended the Clarksville run, Jones nailed a 3 and McEwen closed the third with four points to get the Generals to within 10.
“We extended the lead in the third quarter, but Jones shot them back into it,” Blueitt said. “That’s something we expected from them. We have to play better defense, but all credit is due to them. I think a lot of them and I wish them nothing but the best.”
Clarksville got within eight points early in the fourth quarter on free throws by McEwen and Jones, but Blueitt and the Panthers — and too many missed free throws — wouldn’t allow the Generals to get any closer.
“We fought back,” Connell said. “We fought back hard. That’s us. That’s one thing I’ve said about this team all year — they don’t quit. They never have. Many teams would have gave up in that game and we didn’t.”
“We had no doubt throughout the entire game that we were going to win,” McEwen said. “Obviously we lost the game, but no doubt was ever in our mind that we could come back and win. We’re winners regardless. We’re winners in my book and hopefully we’ll be winners in everybody else’s book looking back on it.”
As the final buzzer sounded, there were plenty of tears in the Clarksville lockeroom and in the stands as the Generals fell two wins short of their ultimate goal. So too were there cheers of appreciation for what they accomplished.