No Shane Hall? No problem for Johnson Central on Monday night.
Despite having to travel to Lawrence County’s house for a key game for 57th District tournament seeding purposes against a high-scoring Bulldogs team they had only beaten by four points 16 days ago at home, and despite being without Hall, the Golden Eagles were just fine.
They got 20 points from Dalton Adkins and held Lawrence County to 22.6 percent shooting from the field to earn district seeding pole position with a 54-32 rout.
The Bulldogs were averaging 68.7 points per game coming in and had five players averaging 9.6 points a night or more. But their top scorer on Monday — Timmy Dalton — had just eight points.
Lawrence County shot 5-for-21 — 23.8 percent — from 3-point range. It was also 3-for-11 — that’s 27.3 percent — at the foul line.
“They’ve got a lot of offensive weapons,” Golden Eagles coach Tommy McKenzie said. “What we wanted to do was make sure that we took the 3-point line away from them. I think that’s a big key to their game.
“They don’t get (shots) off of sets; they don’t get it off of passing the ball around the perimeter; they get their shots off the dribble penetration and kickouts, and we had to make sure that defensively we were solid on the ball, we weren’t getting beat off the dribble, and then we were (doing) help-and-recover, and I thought our help-and-recover tonight went really, really well.”
Hall, a 6-foot-9 Marshall signee, sat out for the third straight game while battling the flu last week.
“He’s getting better,” McKenzie said. “He hasn’t gotten himself where he can get up and down the floor.”
The Golden Eagles improved to 13-6 overall and 5-1 in district seeding games. Lawrence County is 15-8 and 5-2 in seeding contests.
What figured to be a battle to determine the district frontrunner down the stretch was never within single digits after Johnson Central’s Patrick Rice drove the lane to put the Golden Eagles up 23-12 with 5:40 to go in the first half.
The Bulldogs actually led 7-3 two and a half minutes into the game before Johnson Central reeled off a 13-0 first-quarter run, begun when Adkins was fouled shooting a 3-pointer in the corner and hit all three ensuing charity tosses.
The Golden Eagles led 34-17 at intermission and put it away by scoring the first nine points of the third quarter, all off Bulldogs turnovers.
Adkins scored on a putback and a trey on back-to-back trips, Slade McPeek hit a circus shot in the lane, and Truman Salyer gave Johnson Central its biggest lead at 43-17 with a bucket down low.
“Third quarter’s been a big key for us,” McKenzie said. “In games that we’ve lost, we’ve lost the third quarter, and in games that we’ve won, we’ve played really well, so that was our thing: ‘Let’s stretch this lead out.’”
The Bulldogs turned it over on six of their first seven possessions of the third frame.
Lawrence County coach Josh Cook didn’t have much to say — for the record, at least — after the game.
“I’ll keep it really short: we’ve got some growing up we need to do, and we’re gonna get ourselves refocused and understand what’s really important,” he said. “Basically, we need to come back together, and we had a reality check, and it’s time we see what’s really important about this game, and it’s time we put each other first.”
The Golden Eagles shot 45.7 percent from the field and 50 percent at the line, hitting 6 of 12 free throws.
Johnson Central now can lock up the top seed in the district tournament later this month at Sheldon Clark with wins at both Paintsville on Thursday and Magoffin County on Friday — both of whom it has beaten handily already once.
Lawrence County and Sheldon Clark are also still alive for the top seed, but the Golden Eagles can make that moot by taking care of their own business.
“That’s all we can ask for,” McKenzie said. “You want to be in control of your own destiny when it comes to your district seeding, and going into the postseason, we feel like we’re headed in the right direction.”
ZACK KLEMME can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2658.