This one was an instant classic.
In two games this season, Sheldon Clark had defeated Johnson Central by a combined score of seven points.
Not this time around.
Junior Shane Hall sank two free throws with 9 seconds left to lift the Golden Eagles to thrilling 50-49 win over Sheldon Clark in front of a standing-room-only crowd at Magoffin County High School Friday night.
Hall had just nine points, but he made shots when they counted. His basket with 1:38 remaining extended Johnson Central’s lead to 48-44. He also pulled down 10 rebounds and surpassed Mike Castle as the school’s all-time leading rebounder at 779.
“I’m just proud — proud of our kids, proud of our community and proud of our school,” said Johnson Central coach Tommy McKenzie. “We knew it was going to be a fight. (Sheldon Clark) is a great team and they are very well coached. If the cards play out, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them next week (in the regional tournament).”
Central had an unusual cast of playmakers. Dalton Adkins and Truman Salyer each hit big 3-pointers after Sheldon Clark (19-10) cut its margin to one in the third and fourth quarters, respectively. The Cardinals took just their second lead of the game with 34 seconds left when senior Chase Kirk hit a layup on a backdoor cut on an inbounds play.
The Golden Eagles (19-10), who made just 11 of 19 attempts from the free-throw line, hit just 2 of 5 in the final 1:39 of the game, including a pair by Braxton Blair with 0:11.4 left.
“We were a rebound away from winning a 57th District championship,” said a deflated Sheldon Clark coach Frankie Smith. “We fought hard to get back in the game, and to lose it like that hurts for me and I’m sure it hurts our kids. It’s no consolation to be playing in the regional tournament next week. We wanted this one.”
Slade McPeek and Adkins had 14 points apiece to lead Central. McPeek had 13 in the first half.
Central, the defending 15th Region champs who lost to Sheldon Clark in last year’s district finals, shot 46 percent from the floor on 18 of 39. They were outrebounded by a 31-29 margin.
“I told our kids we had to shoot the ball with confidence,” McKenzie added. “We did that for the most part.”
Kirk had a game-high 22 points for the Cardinals, including five 3-pointers. Chase Parsley added 17.
Both teams advance to next week’s 15th Region Tournament at the Eastern Kentucky Exposition Center. The tournament draw is slated for this morning in Pikeville.
“Nothing, including the regional tournament, can match the atmosphere of the district tournament held at the school site,” McKenzie said. “This is what high school basketball is all about.”
J. CENTRAL 14 17 11 8 — 50
S. CLARK 11 14 13 11 — 49
Johnson Central (50) — Shane Hall 3 3-5 10; Braxton Blair 1 0-2 2; Dalton Adkins 4(1) 3-4 14; Slade McPeek 5(1) 1-4 14; Kyle Gullett 0 2-2 2; Truman Salyer 2(1) 0-0 7; Nick McKenzie 0 2-2 2. Totals: 15(3) 11-19 50.
Sheldon Clark (49) — Dylan James 0(1) 0-2 3; Chase Kirk 3(5) 1-2 22; Chase Parsley 7 3-3 17; Patrick Rice 1 0-0 2; Ethan Osborne 1(1) 0-0 5. Totals: 12(7) 4-7 49.