CNHI News Service
This game lived up to all the hype — and four minutes more of it — Friday night.
Johnson Central's Shane Hall hit two free throws with :02.5 left as the Golden Eagles escaped with a thrilling 74-72 win over Lawrence County and their second straight 57th District championship.
Hall, a 6-foot-10 senior who has signed to play at Marshall, wanted the ball in the final seconds.
“This is what you play for and dream of,” said Hall, who notched a triple-double with a team-high 20 points, 14 rebounds and 11 blocks. Marshall coach Tom Herrion and assistant coach Mark Cline were in attendance. “I wanted this for my teammates and our fans.”
Johnson Central coach Tommy McKenzie didn't think twice about putting the ball in Hall's hands.
“We were either going to win or go into a second overtime,” he said. “I felt good about our chances.”
Lawrence County (20-6), the tournament's No. 2 seed, battled from 14 points down to tie the game at 65 and force overtime. Sophomore Austin Chaffins hit a 3-pointer with 51 seconds remaining to tie the game and force the extra session. It also capped off a run of 10 unanswered points for the Bulldogs.
Chaffins had a game-high 30 points for Lawrence County. He hit 6 of 10 from behind the arc, but fouled out early in the overtime session. Robert Dalton followed with 20 points. Timmy Dalton and Brandon Richardson finished with 10 apiece.
Richardson's long 3-pointer with 1:23 remaining in the overtime tied the game, and the Bulldogs knotted the score again at 72 apiece on a basket by Robert Dalton.
Hall was fouled by Matt Ratliff in the final seconds. Lawrence County coach Josh Cook said he wanted to give his team a chance at another possession in case Central scored.
“I wanted to put our kids in a chance to win the game or force another overtime,” said Cook. “I'm so proud of our kids. We wanted the district tournament bad, but we also wanted our kids to know they can play with these guys. Our focus now shifts to next week.”
Johnson Central (22-6), the winners of three of the last four district titles and owners of back-to-back 15th Region crowns, shot 57 percent from the floor. Junior Kyle Gullett had 19 points. Braxton Blair had nine points and eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for his career.
McKenzie said his team needed to be tested like this in a tournament atmosphere.
“This experience will get us ready and refocused,” he said. “We know we are going to get everyone's best shot from here on out.”
Lawrence County used a 12-1 run to start the fourth quarter, including three 3-point baskets by Chaffins, to put the game back in reach. The Bulldogs tied the game on five occasions in the second half.
Both teams advance to next week's 15th Region Tournament in Pikeville. This was the Bulldogs' last 57th District tournament as they will move to the 60th District next season with Belfry, Pike Central and Phelps.
LAWRENCE 10 7 15 33 7 — 72
J. CENTRAL 13 10 23 19 9 — 74
Lawrence County (72) — Timmy Dalton 1(2) 2-6 10; Austin Chaffins 3(6) 6-6 30; Robert Dalton 6(1) 5-9 20; Brandon Richardson 1(2) 5-9 10; Josh Ratliff 1 0-2 2. Totals: 12(11) 15-25 72.
Johnson Central (74) — Dalton Adkins 3 0-0 6; Braxton Blair 2 5-7 9; Nick McKenzie 0 1-2 1; Slade McPeek 3 2-3 8; Truman Salyer 1(3) 0-0 11; Kyle Gullett 3(3) 4-6 19; Shane Hall 6 8-15 20. Totals: 18(6) 20-33 74.