The Mark Twain boys basketball team struggled offensively but locked down on defense to pull out a 48-36 win over Silex on Tuesday night.

Devin Neff won't sugarcoat the situation.

There was a lot the senior guard didn't like about how his Mark Twain boys basketball team played Tuesday against Silex in an Eastern Missouri Conference home game.

But Neff will take the outcome any day of the week.

Mark Twain (7-6, 2-1 EMO) made just 14 of 50 shots from the field and converted less than half of its 40 free-throw attempts but still managed to pull out a 48-36 victory. 

“It was ugly, but we got a win, and I'm proud of our boys tonight,” Neff said.

The Tigers failed to score for a stretch of more than five minutes in the third quarter. Their 5-point halftime lead dwindled to 27-26 when Owls junior Hunter Lavy drove the lane for a bucket with 2 minutes, 52 seconds remaining in the period.

But Mark Twain responded with a 7-0 run to stay ahead, and center Grant Peters closed out the win by scoring nine of his game-high 21 points in the fourth.

Peters grabbed 14 rebounds to record his sixth double-double in the past eight games. He also led the Tigers with three assists and took two charges on defense.

“That's what he's done for us all year,” Mark Twain head coach Cody McCann said of the 6-foot-7 Peters. “Especially late, we got it inside and he was able to finish and also pass the ball really well from the high post." 

Mark Twain led 11-10 through the first eight minutes of play and started to create separation in the second quarter thanks to some hot shooting from Neff. 

The senior, who scored 13 points on the night, connected for a trio of 3-pointers in the second, including two that came in the final 1:45 of the first half. His final triple put the Tigers up 25-17 with 49 seconds left until halftime. 

Mark Twain led 25-20 at the intermission.

“I was more confident in the second quarter,” Neff said. “We were moving the ball a lot more. My teammates got me the open shots, and I just took 'em. I felt confident in every single shot I took, and they just went in.”

Kaden Elliott put Mark Twain up by seven on the first possession out of halftime before the Tigers proceeded to miss 12 of 13 shots from the field over the remainder of the third.

Lavy sparked a spurt for Silex (1-11, 0-3) with a three followed by another bucket on a drive through the lane to pull within one.

“We were worried so much about the offensive end that our defensive end struggled a little bit too,” McCann admitted. “They did a great job taking us out of our game. They were very physical with us, and at times we couldn't handle it, and they put us on the line where we struggled.”

Mark Twain shot just 43 percent from the free-throw line, continuing a troubling trend.

Peters mentioned he and his teammates need to increase their focus to cash in on opportunities for free points.

“We aren't shooting the greatest from the free-throw line, and teams are going to foul us, so we have to start making our free throws to prove that we can,” the senior said. “We've got to knock them down at the stripe and earn the game there.”

A putback by Peters ended Mark Twain's lengthy third-quarter drought and put the Tigers up 29-26 with 2 minutes, 9 seconds left in the stanza.

While the Tigers worked out of their rut, the Owls couldn't.

The Mark Twain defense clamped down to hold Silex to just 10 points over the final 11 minutes. The Owls made just four field goals in the second half and shot 12 of 54 (22 percent) from the field in the loss.

Mark Twain, meanwhile, got points on each of its first three possessions of the fourth, extending its lead to 38-28 with a Preston Eckler bucket at the 6:29 mark of the final period.

The Tigers never looked back.

“A win is a win, especially in conference,” McCann said. “The goal is to win conference, and even ugly games like this, we just have to pull them out somehow.”