MONMOUTH — The budding rivalry between the Winthrop and Monmouth boys basketball teams is approaching its apex. Both teams have tournament aspirations this winter and played like a berth was on the line Thursday in just the second week of the season.

Undermanned Winthrop came away with a 50-47 win that came down to the final possession, a three-point attempt by the Mustangs that fell short.

The Ramblers (1-1) played most of the game without junior point guard Taylor Morang, who is nursing a deep thigh bruise. After playing sparingly, the first three quarters, Morang was on the floor most of the fourth period and sank a couple of key free throws to keep his team in the lead. Winthrop also lost 6-foot-4 Anthony Owens to an ankle sprain in the opening moments of the second half and starter Ben Allen battled foul trouble before fouling out late in the game.

“We’re trying to find some more depth,” Winthrop coach Todd MacArthur said. “We’re a tough mental team and we know what it takes to win. We like to play full-court ‘D’ but sometimes we have to win it in the half and I think we did that tonight with our half-court D.”

Monmouth (2-1) trailed by as many as 10 points, but fought back behind senior Marcques Houston (12 points, 7 rebounds), senior Brett Wilson and freshman Hunter Richardson, both of whom scored 10 points. The Mustangs trailed 46-39 with less than three minutes left but drew to within a point as Brandon Goff sandwiched a rebound and a driving layup around Richardson’s putback.

Allen made two free throws with 1:09 left by fouled out eight seconds later. A pair of free throws by Wilson made it 48-47, before Morang hit the front end of two bonus opportunities to put the game away,

Both teams came out jittery and committed eight turnovers apiece in the first quarter that ended with the Ramblers in front 11-4. Winthrop freshman Jacob Hickey heated up in the second quarter and scored nine of his game-high 14 points. Monmouth trailed 28-20 at the half but went immediately inside to Houston in the second half for a pair of hoops. A 3-pointer from Wilson cut the lead to 28-27 but Allen (12 points) and Matt Sekerak hit key baskets later in the quarter which ended with Winthrop in front 40-33.

Gary Hawkins — 621-5638[email protected]Twitter: @GaryHawkinsKJ

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