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Luke Ward drives to the basket for a shot with an Austin defender in his face in the Tigers' 56-53 loss to the Black Bears. Special to the Enquirer/Jim Meadows

Tigers open season with 56-53 loss to Austin

The Hartselle Tigers hit the floor for their first game of the basketball season against 7A Austin. The Tigers battled with the Black Bears for four quarters but came up three points short in their 56-53 loss.

Austin jumped out to an early lead in the first quarter but saw the Tigers battle back with two three-pointers by Kohl Key. Kiah Key added five points, and Luke Ward had four, to keep Hartselle close.

The Black Bears led 19-15 heading to the second quarter.

The teams played even in the second quarter. The Tigers got three-pointers from Kiah and Kohl Key and Ward to power their offense. Hartselle and Austin scored 11 points apiece to go into halftime with the Black Bears leading 30-26.

Austin started the third quarter on a 10-4 run to build a 10-point lead. Cam Collins hit two three-pointers to fuel the Black Bears’ run.

The Tigers closed out the quarter on a 12-2 run to tie the game at 42-42 heading into the fourth quarter. Ryan Dunn hit a three-pointer that helped start the comeback, and freshman Ty Odom hit his first three-pointer to tie the game with less than five seconds left.

The Black Bears scored nine of their 14 fourth-quarter points from the free-throw line as they pulled away for the 56-53 win.

Ward had four points, and Dunn finished with three, to lead the Tigers in the fourth quarter.

Ward finished with 15 points, nine rebounds and two assists to lead Hartselle (0-1). Kiah Key added a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Kohl Key hit three three-pointers to finish with nine points.

Collins finished with 22 points to lead Austin (4-0). Jalen Orr added 16 points.