Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

March 3, 2013

15th Region championship: A Central State of Mind

Golden Eagles to return to Rupp

Joshua Ball
For The Independent

PIKEVILLE — The 15th Region still runs through Johnson Central. A week after

narrowly defeating

Sheldon Clark for the 57th District title, the Golden Eagles left no doubt this time around.

Sophomore Kyle Gullett was a sparkplug off the bench, scoring a team-high 12 points as Johnson Central cruised to a 59-48 victory over Sheldon Clark to win its second straight 15th Region title Saturday at the Eastern Kentucky Exposition Center.

The victory marked the first time in school history that Johnson Central has won consecutive regional crowns.

“I’m just proud of our kids,” said Johnson Central coach Tommy McKenzie. “Our kids have been struggling, but they never quit playing hard.”

Central will play Region 7 winner Ballard (28-4) Thursday at 6:30 p.m. in the opening round of the Sweet Sixteen at Rupp Arena.

The Golden Eagles (22-10) used a 12-0 run in the second quarter to blow the game wide open. During the stretch, junior Shane Hall, who earned Most Valuable Player of the tournament, was on the bench with two fouls. He finished with 11 points and six rebounds.

Enter Gullett.

His 3-pointer with 1:59 left in the half ended the run and extended the Golden Eagles’ margin to 24-18. He added another 3-pointer and a three-point play later to move Johnson Central ahead 10 at 30-20.

“Kyle has played well off the bench for us all season, and we needed his lift tonight,” McKenzie said of his sophomore sharpshooter. “We have a very young team, but they have had to grow up in a hurry, and they played huge tonight.”

Sheldon Clark (21-11), which was playing in its first regional title game since 1988, struggled from the floor, hitting 37 percent on 15-of-41 attempts, including 5 of 18 from three-point range. The difference in the game was on the glass, where Central outrebounded the Cardinals 33 to 18.

Sophomore Chase Parsley had a game-high 29 points to lead Sheldon Clark.

Johnson Central hit 56 percent of its shots (23 of 41), including 5 of 10 from three-point range. Braxton Blair led the Golden Eagles with 12 points.

S. CLARK    14    8    6      20    —    48

J. CENTRAL    11    19    7      22    —    59

Sheldon Clark (48): Dylan James 1(2) 0-1 8; Chase Kirk 1 6-7 8; Chase Parsley 7(3) 6-9 29; Patrick Rice 1 0-0 2; Trevor Blackburn 0 1-2 1. Totals: 10(5) 13-19 48.

Johnson Central (59): Shane Hall 4 3-5 11; Braxton Blair 5 2-4 12; Dalton Adkins 2(1) 0-2 7; Slade McPeek 1(1) 0-0 5; Kyle Gullett 2(2) 1-1 11; Truman Salyer 3(1) 0-1 9; Nick McKenzie 0 2-2 2; Josh Hitchcock 1 0-0 2. Totals: 18(5) 8-15 59.