After Tuesday night, Lawrence County has the attention of the rest of the 15th Region.
Lawrence County had nine 3-pointers to upend district rival Johnson Central, 78-76, on Tuesday at Lawrence County High School.
After falling to the Eagles by 24 points on Dec. 7, Bulldogs coach Josh Cook said this win shows how much better his team has gotten.
“This shows that we’re making improvements,” Cook said. “On Dec. 7, we committed a whole lot more turnovers. Tonight those turnovers turned into assists.”
Lawrence County has now won nine of the past 10 games and, according to Cook, someone different has stepped up each game.
It was freshman Brandon Richardson, who led the Bulldogs with 23 points, on Tuesday. The stat-line included a 5-of-6 night from the three-point line.
Richardson’s night was nothing unexpected to Cook, who considers him a gym rat.
“He hits shots,” Cook said. “He’s one of those kids that works on his shot and spends extra hours in the gym. Give credit to Brandon because he kept knocking them down.”
Lawrence County needed extra help with Johnson Central star player Shane Hall playing in his first game in three weeks after suffering a high right ankle sprain.
Hall, though, played just more than eight minutes because of foul trouble, and then twisted his left ankle at the beginning of the second half. The injury left him out for good as he finished with 11 points and six rebounds.
“Any time we don’t have him on the floor it’s a big difference for us,” said Johnson Central coach Tommy McKenzie. “We played the same team in December without him. But the thing is Lawrence County has just gotten a lot better.”
A bright spot for Hall was is that his first two points allowed him to reach 1,000 career.
With Hall missing most of the second half, Johnson Central’s offense came from the driving power of point guard Braxton Blair.
Blair finished with a game-high 26 points, with 19 coming in the second half.
“Shane’s our best player, but Braxton is our most valuable player,” McKenzie said. “He never comes out of the ball game, never has the ball out of his hands and makes the right decisions. He does a good job of scoring and running our team.”
Down 41-37 at halftime, Johnson Central used pressure and timely baskets to go on a 14-6 run in the opening five minutes of the third quarter.
For Lawrence County (10-7), a team that features just two seniors, its youth really showed in those opening minutes of the third.
“We showed a little bit of our youth,” Cook said. “We were up and then there is a momentum shift in the game and we’re back on our heels, which is a credit to Johnson Central. We just tried to get our kids to keep attacking.”
Johnson Central (9-7) had only a two-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, but six points from Grant Kiser, and big layups from Robert and Timmy Dalton pushed the Bulldogs back ahead of the Eagles.
Kiser and Timmy Dalton both finished with 14 points, while Robert Dalton had 11.
Cook credits his team’s fourth-quarter success to attacking the press instead of letting it get to them like it did earlier.
Johnson Central had a chance to tie or take the lead with 3 seconds left on the clock and an inbounds spot just past half court.
McKenzie said his team was going for a 3-pointer and a win, but ended up not getting a shot up at all.