BAINBRIDGE - Talk about a wake-up call.
The Early County boys, playing their first game in two weeks, squandered an 18-point second-half lead to fall, 60-59, to Malone (Fla.) (12-1) on Monday in the Georgia-Florida Shootout.
"We just got complacent," said Bobcats coach Randy Isom, whose team fell to 4-2 on the season. "When you're not hitting your shots and the other team is, it (doesn't end well)."
Star forward Chai Baker and the Tigers (12-1) were definitely the ones hitting shots toward the end of the game, as Baker made his seventh 3-pointer of the night to cut Early's lead to 56-53 with 1:24 left in the game after the Bobcats led, 49-39, to start the period.
After a couple Early County turnovers and a blocked shot attempt, the Bobcats found themselves down, 60-56 after Baker hit four consecutive free throws to reach his game-high 33 points for Malone, which has won 13 state titles in the program's history -- including five in recent years.
"We couldn't keep our composure and made mistakes. We had to stay ahead and stop being selfish, but we also turned it over a lot, too," said Bobcats forward Jacory Taylor, who finished with 13 points and a game-high 13 rebounds. "(It also didn't help that Baker) is a really good shooter."
The Bobcats had their biggest lead of the game (43-25) at the beginning of the second, thanks largely to strong play by forward Chevious Williams, who finished with 19 points and nine rebounds.
But that's when they started missing shots, as evident by guards Rashun Brackins (nine points) and Ladonis Yarbrough (12 points, five assists) combining to go 9-for-29 from the floor.
"I told my forwards in the locker room that I was pleased with their performances," Isom said. "Our guards usually lead us, and they were off, so it (was good the forwards stepped up)."
Early County won't keep its head down, though. The Bobcats play again today at 4 p.m. against Blountstown (5-4) in the same tournament.
"That game's over with," Taylor said. "We just have to come out hard (today).