For The Independent
Tommy McKenzie became the all-time winningest coach in Johnson Central history on Saturday night as the Golden Eagles edged 57th District foe Lawrence County in front of a packed house at Eagle Fieldhouse.
McKenzie, 32, in his seventh season as head coach at Johnson Central, has 123 wins. He surpassed Wendell Wallen, who coached the Golden Eagles from 1973-79.
“It has nothing to do with me,” said McKenzie, who has guided Central to back-to-back 15th Region titles. “It’s about the kids, my staff, this school and our wonderful community.”
McKenzie captured the all-time wins mark in five fewer games than it took Wallen, who guided the Golden Eagles to a regional title in 1975. He led Meade to three regional titles prior to the consolidation to Johnson Central.
McKenzie helped guide Johnson Central to a regional title in 2000 as a player. He later was an assistant under Mark Starns when the Golden Eagles won a regional title in 2006. He has led JCHS to four 20-win seasons, tied for the most in school history with Mike Castle.
“When you look at the history of this program … Paul Williams, Mike Castle, Wendell Wallen and Johnny Ray Turner, this program has been in good hands for many, many years,” McKenzie added. “I’ll think more about this night years from now.”
It was a game of runs on Saturday. Central (10-5) never trailed and won its sixth straight game.
The Golden Eagles’ size, led by 6-foot-9 Marshall signee Shane Hall, controlled the glass, outrebounding Lawrence County by a lopsided 51-35 margin. Hall finished the game with 12 points and 17 rebounds, eclipsing 1,000 rebounds for his career. Prior to the game, he was recognized as a McDonald’s All-American nominee.
But it was Central’s Braxton Blair who carried much of the offensive load. The junior point guard was as cool as the other side of the pillow, scoring 16 first-half points en route to a game-high 27. He also connected on 11 of 16 free throws.
The Golden Eagles extended their lead to 10 at 39-29 on a basket by Kyle Gullett with 6:32 left in the third. Lawrence County (11-7) trimmed its deficit to three at 47-44 on a pair of free throws by Robert Dalton with 1:52 left in the third.
“I’m proud of how our kids never quit,” said Lawrence County coach Josh Cook. “We needed a few breaks, and we didn’t get them. I think we will learn and grow from this.”
Austin Chaffins got the Bulldogs to within three again late in the game when he sank two free throws with 15 seconds remaining.
Chaffins had 12 points as four Lawrence County players landed in double figures. Brandon Richardson led with 15 points. Timmy Dalton had 13, and Robert Dalton finished with 12.
Timmy Dalton was injured with a little over 3:00 left in the game. He was taken by ambulance to a local hospital.
LAWRENCE CO. 11 15 18 21 — 65
J. CENTRAL 15 18 18 18 — 69
Lawrence County (65) — Timmy Dalton 3(1) 4-8 13; Austin Chaffins 4 4-7 12; Grant Kiser 2(1) 2-4 9; Robert Dalton 4 4-8 12; Brandon Richardson 2(2) 5-6 15; Josh Ratliff 2 0-1 4. Totals: 17(4) 19-34 65.
Johnson County (69) — Dalton Adkins 0(1) 0-0 3; Braxton Blair 5(2) 11-16 27; Nick McKenzie 0 1-2 1; Slade McPeek 5 1-2 11; Truman Salyer 1(1) 2-5 7; Kyle Gullett 3 2-2 8; Shane Hall 3 6-11 12. Totals: 17(4) 23-38 69.