Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

December 30, 2013

AARON SNYDER: Strong faith steadies Thomas

Aaron Snyder
The Independent

ASHLAND — With a rarely achieved triple-double, Cameron Thomas elevated his game to new heights on Friday night.

It’s because someone special was watching from above, he said.

“She had the best seat in the world,” said Thomas.

The Rose Hill Christian senior was referring to his grandmother, Lydia Hale. She passed away on Friday morning at age 75 after battling cancer for more than a year.

For Thomas, there was no doubt he’d be suiting up that night for a home game against Piarist.

“I knew she’d want me to play, to be strong,” Thomas said on Sunday. “I felt like she was with me that game.”

Thomas delivered a pregame message to his teammates.

Said Rose Hill coach Justin Maynard: “He talked to the guys and let them know that this game was dedicated to her.

“I’ve never seen a kid that levelheaded in that type of situation,” Maynard said. “He knew his grandma was suffering, and he told me that he knew she was better off now, with Jesus.”

Unbeknownst to him, Thomas was racking up numbers in personal-record fashion. He finished with 30 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

“That was the last thing on my mind,” said Thomas, who admitted he was overwhelmed upon finding out what he’d accomplished. Shawn Adkins, his cousin, was the first to inform him.

“I was just playing the game,” he added. “Everything was coming natural to me. The team was clicking.”

Fittingly enough, the final tally of points scored by the Royals matched Thomas’ beloved grandmother’s age. They won 75-65.

One night later, Thomas and company competed in the annual David Garnes Memorial Classic. With a memorial blanket draped over a portion of the bench, Rose Hill played in honor of the former Royal who died of a rare heart defect at age 16 in 2005.

The Royals won again, beating Riverside Christian, 88-53, on Saturday. Thomas shined with 32 points, trumping his previous career-high from the night prior.

With two wins in two nights, Rose Hill matched its win total from the last two years combined.

Maynard said it’s nice to see the extra joy on their faces. Thomas, being a strong leader, is a key factor in producing that.

“A verse we talk about a lot is 1 Corinthians 10:31 — ‘So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God,’” Maynard said. “Cameron has really latched onto that.”

Thomas will forever cherish his final moments spent with his grandmother, who wasn’t able to watch him play varsity basketball.

“We talked on Monday, and I said, ‘Jesus is good.’ She said, ‘Yes, he is,’” Thomas said. “... I know she went to be with the Lord. That’s the main thing.”

The Dime

-The Ashland-East Carter girls game is a great way to ring in the New Year in the 16th Region. The Lady Raiders have been pummeling opponents, with the exception of an outstanding Elizabethtown bunch, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens on Thursday night in Grayson against the two-time defending region champions.

-Ashland’s boys shouldn’t be too disappointed with another loss in the AIT championship game. Throw the 12-year title drought in the tournament aside, because the Tomcats are have made huge strides this season amidst a treacherous schedule.

-East Carter and Elliott County showed some grit and toughness over the last two weekends. The Raiders, highlighted by Connor Greene and crew, surprised Lawrence County in the Raceland Derby Classic before a decent display in the Our Lady of Bellefonte Holiday Classic at Greenup County. The Lions, led by Logan Nickell, made a nice run to the OLBH finals, where they lost a hard-fought matchup to Woodford County.

-Fairview’s boys’ seven consecutive losses comprises the longest such skid since the 2002-03 season. The Eagles are eager to flip the calendar.

-Boyd County’s boys are much better than their 3-7 record, in my opinion, and they’ll have ample opportunity to prove that in the next two weeks, with a string of six straight region battles.

-Wonder if Boyd County’s girls will be carrying the same winning tune upon returning from the Music City? Before departing for Nashville, the Lady Lions had won four straight, including a win over Ashland. The rematch is this Saturday at Ashland.

-Bath County’s girls’ six-game winning streak to start the season was snapped in Owensboro. It was the best start in Lady Cats history.

-Johnson Central standout power forward Shane Hall embraced an opportunity to showcase his skills away from the area. In the King of the Bluegrass in Louisville, Hall was named to the All-Tournament team with 29.3 points, 11 rebounds, 4.7 blocks and 4 dunks per game in three contests. He collected 38 points and 19 rebounds in a loss to Pleasure Ridge Park, and had 31 points and eight boards in a win over Thomas Nelson.

-Former Ashland player Dikembe Dixson, a 6-foot-6 small forward garnering Division-I attention, confirmed to Adam Zagoria (NBA.com, SNY.tv) that he is no longer with the Thomas Nelson program. Dixson, a junior, led the Tomcats in scoring last season. Thomas Nelson is coached by Jim Youngman, who coached Greenup County’s boys in 2011-12. A.J. Youngman, his son, is a standout shooter for Thomas Nelson.

-Former Greenup County athletic director Roger Newton is having success as Nicholas County’s boys basketball coach. The Bluejackets won the First National Bank of Brooksville-Bracken County Holiday Classic this past weekend, defeating Pike County Central 61-57 in the finals. Tyler Newton, the coach’s son, tallied 35 points against Newport and earned Tournament MVP honors.

Snyder’s NEKY

Super Seven

BOYS


1. Ashland (7-3)

2. Johnson Central (5-5)

3. Fleming County (7-5)

4. Lawrence County (8-3)

5. Rowan County (7-4)

6. Boyd County (3-7)

7. East Carter (6-6)

Look who’s knocking (next two in): Greenup County, Elliott County.



GIRLS

1. East Carter (13-1)

2. Boyd County (6-3)

3. Ashland (6-3)

4. Lewis County (6-5)

5. Bath County (6-2)

6. Russell (9-3)

7. Fleming County (7-4)

Look who’s knocking (next two in): Johnson Central, Greenup County.

30-Point Club

As already mentioned, Rose Hill’s Cameron Thomas and Johnson Central’s Shane Hall doubled up, with a pair of 30-point performances apiece.

Troy Steward tallied 31 points for Fleming County in its 84-79 loss to Simon Kenton on Saturday in the AIT.

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AARON SNYDER can be reached at asnyder@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2664.