Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

March 22, 2014

Scott County needs late spurt to edge Johnson Central

LEXINGTON — “All we wanted was a chance” to beat Scott County in the Sweet Sixteen quarterfinals on Friday, said Johnson Central coach Tommy McKenzie.

The Golden Eagles did better than that. They were dead even with the Cardinals with 4:30 to go, and they had a 3-pointer in the air to try to tie with 2:30 to play.

But it didn’t fall, Scott County outscored Johnson Central 15-6 in the final 4:26, and the Cardinals moved on to the state semifinals with a 64-55 victory in Rupp Arena.

The Golden Eagles, who were seeking their first trip to the state semifinals in school history, finished the season 26-7 after putting a tremendous scare into the Cardinals (34-3), ranked third in the state in the final Associated Press poll.

Johnson Central made enough plays to put Scott County on the ropes, but it couldn’t knock down enough shots to put the Cardinals down for the count.

“With Scott County, you can’t give them any kind of daylight. You can’t give them any kind of easy looks,” McKenzie said. “In a matter of (30) seconds, it went from 49-49 to 54-49. It was one of those things, we weren’t able to recover from it.”

Shane Hall scored 21 points — 17 of them in the second half — and collected 14 rebounds for Johnson Central, which never led but was more than within striking distance all the way after being down 10 on two occasions late in the first quarter.

“I was gonna go to the rim no matter what happened,” Hall said. “I was wanting to score and try to get us back in the game.”

Braxton Blair pitched in 15 points for the Golden Eagles.

“I knew they were gonna be pressuring us hard up top,” Blair said, “and I wanted to try to get to the basket and create for myself and my teammates.”

Blair kept Johnson Central in it early, scoring nine points in the first half.

“I thought we did a really good job of containing Hall, who’s great off the dribble, (and) we did a good job of pressuring (Johnson Central’s Kyle) Gullett,” Scott County coach Billy Hicks. “And then daggone Blair killed us. Blair just drove, and man, he hit tough shots off the dribble.”

But Johnson Central only shot 32.1 percent from the field, it was 19-for-32 for 59.4 percent at the free throw line, and it was 0-for-12 from beyond the 3-point arc.

Cardinals guard Trent Gilbert totaled 29 points, including a state tournament-record 14-for-14 performance at the charity stripe.

The Golden Eagles hung around by holding the Cardinals to 36.4 percent shooting and forcing 18 turnovers.

“Our guys played hard,” McKenzie said. “They’re gonna make things happen from the defensive end, they’re gonna get deflections, they’re gonna get second-chance points, and I thought we did a good job of doing those things today.”

That approach impressed Scott County — Hicks called the first 16 minutes “probably the worst half of basketball we’ve had offensively” — but the Cardinals got buckets when they had to have them.

Hall hit two free throws with 4:44 to play to tie the game at 49, but Scott County’s Hines Jones splashed a trey the next trip down, and after Hall was called for a foul battling for a defensive rebound, Gilbert drained both ends of a 1-and-1 with 3:56 remaining.

”Our focus and pretty much every team that’s played Scott County’s focus has been to make sure Gilbert gets rid of the ball, and we got that,” McKenzie said of the possession when Jones hit his 3. “And the kid stepped up and knocked down a big-time shot, and that’s what good teams do and good players do, and we come down and (on) bad shot selection, give them the ball right back, (and) they go down and hit two more free throws.”

Johnson Central did get the ball back down 56-53, but Gullett’s trey with 2:30 to go didn’t draw iron.

Tony Martini was left all alone down low for the Cardinals on their ensuing possession, and capitalized for a five-point lead.

The Golden Eagles never possessed the ball with a chance to tie again, thanks in large part to Gilbert swishing four straight free throws on consecutive trips with 1:46 and 1:24 remaining.

“It got to where it was a free throw game. Whoever was gonna make their free throws was more than likely gonna take the lead,” said Gilbert, who’s shooting 91 percent at the stripe this season. “It was a lot of pressure coming on, but you gotta overlook that and you just gotta play.”

The Cardinals bench — led by nine points apiece from Jones and Austin Kendred — outscored the Golden Eagles’ reserves 20-1.

“Austin got (five) offensive rebounds, and he took the ball at Johnson Central which not many of our guys would,” Hicks said.

Scott County advances to today’s Final Four, where it will face Trinity in a rematch of the Cardinals’ 70-65 win Feb. 8.

The Golden Eagles wrap a season that included their third straight 15th Region Tournament title and their first state tournament victory since 2000.

“(Scott County) came in highly touted, and for them to know that we were there, I think that was something big for us,” McKenzie said. “You look at the last two years, we lost these games by double digits. We’re in the game, it’s 49-49 with four minutes to go. We can’t ask for anything more than that.”

ZACK KLEMME can be reached at zklemme@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2658.

Text Only
Local Sports
  • 0724putnamwebshot.JPG Laying the foundation Workers are finishing the foundation for the locker room on the home side of Putnam Stadium on Tuesday. The Ashland Tomcats open the football season on Aug. 22 against Newport Catholic.

    July 23, 2014

  • Genuine throwback

    Todd Eastham is disproving the old cliche, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.”

    July 23, 2014

  • MARK MAYNARD: Looking for those who inspire

    Inspirtation, they say, comes from within. It is defined as an inspiring or animating action or influence.

    July 22, 2014

  • 0722KYPGA_152.jpg Jones tops Gillum in playoff at Eagle Trace

    Ashland senior golfer Logan Jones didn't shoot his average Monday.
    He didn't mind.
    His three-over par 75 and one-hole playoff win over Elliott County junior Ryan Gillum gave him the Boys Open division title in the Kentucky PGA Junior Tour stop at Morehead State University's Eagle Trace Golf Course.

    July 21, 2014 6 Photos

  • 102213_329a.jpg Raceland tabs Clark as new girls basketball coach

    Jason Clark has a reputation of being — to use his word — “passionate” on the Raceland volleyball sideline.
    He plans to bring that same approach as the Lady Rams’ new basketball coach.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0305region2_389.jpg Pass the Mayo: East sophomore PG, Lady Raiders preparing for winter run

    East Carter sophomore point guard Kristen Mayo has played basketball for as long as she can remember.

    July 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0718spinda.jpg Steelers super fan Spinda to be recognized in Florida

    Shawn Spinda doesn’t have to use speech to profess his passion for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
    All it takes is a quick glance for a person to get the picture.
    But to absorb the whole picture, you’ll need to clear your schedule.
    Spinda is one of several fanatics who will be recognized at the Sports Fans Conference in Orlando, Florida, which is set for Aug. 28-Sept. 1 at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. He is a “What a Fan” NFL Fan of the Year nominee.

    July 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0703rfLL0204.jpg Little League State Baseball: Ready to run

    Morehead 11- and 12-year-old All-Star baseball manager Toby Gardner collectively likened his team to a racehorse.

    July 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0717prokick1.jpg Prokicker.com camp Eleven Ashland Tomcat football players were part of the Ray Guy Prokicker.com camp at Huntington High. The high-profile camps are put on all over the country. Rick Sang, an Ashland native who befriended Guy 20 years ago, is the camp's founder.

    July 16, 2014

  • 0716fbpractice0105.jpg Four-down territory: Making summer football practice pit stops

    The popular Monday night catchphrase filled my room on Tuesday morning as my new alarm sounded off at 7 a.m.

    July 16, 2014 5 Photos