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Regional Champs!
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Monday, March 04, 2019

Ben Austin helps McKenzie boys basketball win first region title in 45 years

Joseph Spears, Jackson Sun Published 1:41 p.m. CT March 2, 2019

Ben Austin couldn't have asked for a better senior season. 

For four years, Austin has played a part for a McKenzie program that's posted 20 or more wins three times. During Austin's freshman year, the Rebels finished 26-4 and every season since then, McKenzie made it to at least the region tournament. The issue that the Rebels had was making some noise in the region tournament.

But with a come-from-behind 54-51 win in the Region 6-A title game over defending Class A champion Loretto (22-6), McKenzie (27-3) claimed its first region championship since 1974. Austin iced the game in the closing seconds with a big rebound off of a Loretto missed free throw and sealed the win at the line.

"This is amazing," Austin said. "This is what every kid dreams about growing up especially me being able to knock down those two free throws at the end. All those hours of work I put in at the gym with my dad grinding, it all pays off in moments like this."

The Rebels beat Summertown in the region semifinals to secure their first sectional appearance since 1998. With an opportunity to host their first sectional game, the Rebels wanted more.

Loretto took an eight-point lead into the fourth quarter before the Rebels took control,  outscoring the Mustangs 18-7.

It only seemed fitting for Austin to close out the game. On the season he averaged 17.5 points and 10.3 rebounds, but during the region tournament he bumped up his scoring average to 23 points.

"He's really helped carry us down the stretch," McKenzie coach John Wilkins said. "He's playing his best basketball right now when we need him to. The other guys feed off of him because he's so selfless and his leadership has been exactly what we need out of him."

While the recent success has been great for the program, Austin and his teammates know that bigger things loom on the horizon. McKenzie's only trip to Murfreesboro for the state tournament was 21 years ago. A win over East Robertson on Monday would add another chapter to the memorable season. 

"We just need to play together and continue to play like we have been lately," Austin said. "You just have to believe and trust in the guys around you. We do that then we're going to continue to win ball games."

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