No amount of experience could have prepared first-year Bret Harte basketball head coach Jeff Eltringham for the past week.

Bret Harte students and the surrounding community have been devastated by the untimely deaths of two students who were killed Saturday in an apparent murder-suicide.

Philip Marshall, 54, is suspected of shooting and killing his two children, Alex and Macaila Marshall, before turning the gun on himself.

Alex, 17, was a junior at the time of his death. He played baseball and varsity football for the Bullfrogs. His sister, Macailia, 14, was a freshman.

"We're trying to keep things really light with them," Eltringham said of recent practices. "I told them if they didn't want to play just let me know and I'd completely understand because everyone grieves in different ways, but all of them wanted to play."

Eltringham said Tuesday's game helped his players, some who had just recently attended the school's winter formal with Alex Marshall and a group of friends, focus on something other than the drama that has unfolded within their community.

"Even if it's just for two hours, it gets their minds off it for a little while and this is obviously something they love to do," he said.

The Bullfrogs overcame a slow start in which they were outscored by Argonaut 16-13 in the first quarter to defeat the Mustangs 54-51 Tuesday night in Jackson.

Bret Harte scored 22 points in the second quarter while holding Argonaut to only seven to lead 35-23 at the break.

Argonaut's Tyler Love had the hot hand in the second half, hitting five 3-pointers on his way to scoring a game-high 27 points, but the Bullfrogs managed to hold off the Mustangs in the final 16 minutes.

"We came out a little flat, but it's been a long two days for these kids," Eltringham said. "It was a rough night and we battled through it."

Will Whited led the scoring with 18 points for the Bullfrogs.

Despite having only played limited minutes this season, Bret Harte junior Sean Krpan scored four points including a big 3-pointer in the fourth quarter and played good defense on Argonaut's point guard, said Eltringham.

"When you have kids who haven't played a lot all year, to see them succeed at the end like that makes me as a coach happy," said Eltringham. "You tell them they are improving constantly but they still aren't getting the minutes some of the other kids are getting, so to see them get in a game and perform like that is huge."

Bret Harte (18-7, 10-3 MLL) will prepare the rest of this week to host arch-rival Calaveras at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.

Eltringham said Calaveras Redskins head coach Kraig Clifton along with players, parents and school employees have reached out and shown support for their cross-county neighbors.

"It's funny how you battle someone so hard, but one of their kids even said something like, "It's not about purple and red this week...' " Eltringham said, in reference to the rival schools' colors. "We're very gracious for everything they've been doing, from their kids to coaches and everyone else over there."

Contact Alex MacLean atamaclean@uniondemocrat.comor 588-4538.