OLIVE HILL A Menifee County team that its coach called "crazy young" has had its share of learning experiences the last couple of years.

Monday night in the 16th Region All "A" Classic quarterfinals brought another one, as Fairview melted the Wildcats' 10-point lead with just over two minutes remaining to three points in a span of just 67 seconds.

Tim Swartz was glad the price tag for that lesson wasn't a loss. The Eagles got within three again on Cody Caldwell's putback with 49 seconds to go, but Menifee County's Brevon Ricker canned four free throws down the stretch to lock down a 78-71 Wildcats victory at West Carter's John "Hop" Brown Court.

"It's great to win those games and not have to learn something when you lose," said Swartz, Menifee County's 12th-year coach. "Hopefully we learned something about the end of the game (close situations) that we hadn't been in a lot. Hopefully that will help us in the future."

Trey Abner and Eli Johnson each scored 29 points and Ricker tallied 17 for the Wildcats (8-8), who as of Monday night were tied with Bath County and Cooper for the second-biggest jump in wins in the state from last season and had multiplied their 2021 win total by more than anyone else in the commonwealth. Menifee County was 1-24 last year and won its first All "A" Classic game in a decade on Monday.

"It's been some years," Abner said, calling the win "life-changing-type stuff. We're just ready to keep going, advance, advance, advance, maybe hopefully play at EKU (in the All 'A' state tournament). You never know."

First, the Wildcats had to hold off Fairview's furious charge. Abner twice gave Menifee County a 10-point lead late, but after his putback put the Wildcats up 72-62 with 2:22 to go, Fairview rattled off seven straight.

Tanner Johnson scored in transition, Steven "Bubba" Day converted in the lane and Jaxon Manninng hit a free throw to lift the Eagles within 72-69 with 1:06 to play.

Eli Johnson made two free throws for Menifee County, but Caldwell countered with his stickback to make it a three-point game again.

"When we got a little breathing room, (Fairview) turned up the pressure and we played a little bit on our heels, and it hurt us," Swartz said. "They were speeding us up and they did a good job. Fairview's a good team. They've got some talent."

But so does Menifee County, and three was as close as Fairview got.

Abner scored 11 of his points in the fourth frame and also had 14 rebounds.

"I want to thank my teammates for getting me the ball in my spots where I can finish," Abner said. "I came into this game really looking to crash the boards real hard, because I know that we had more size than them, and if we won that rebound battle, that it would help us a lot in the victory."

Fairview coach Roger Newton agreed. He called Abner, listed at 6-foot-6 and 235 pounds, "just big and strong; he's a big country kid."

The Eagles' Tanner Johnson scored 17 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter and "was really good attacking the basket," Newton said, as Fairview (4-12) made its run. Manning added 17 points and Day dropped in 16 points and eight rebounds despite first-half foul trouble.

Manning is still working to get back in rhythm following an injury during Fairview's Christmas tournament in Tennessee, Newton said, "but he'll get there. It's the kind of kid he is and the kind of player he is."

Menifee County was 20 for 22 at the foul line, while Fairview converted 9 of 20 attempts.

"Free-throw line was the difference for me," Newton said. "That was an 11-point difference right there, and a lot of those shots they wouldn't have gotten if we weren't playing from behind and having to foul and pick up the pace on them."

Menifee County advances to meet tournament host West Carter in the semifinals on Thursday after beating Fairview for just the third time in their last 17 meetings.

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MENIFEE CO. 15 18 17 28 -- 78

FAIRVIEW 20 10 12 29 -- 71

Menifee County (78) -- Johnson 29, Abner 29, Ricker 17, Williams 3, Craft, Manley, Perkins. 3-Pt. FG: 4 (Johnson 2, Abner, Williams). FT: 20-22. Fouls: 15.

Fairview (71) -- Johnson 28, Smith 2, Manning 17, Day 16, Mitchell 2, Caldwell 6, Muncy, Tucker, J. Harper, Mervilus. 3-Pt. FG: 4 (Johnson 2, Day 2). FT: 9-20. Fouls: 19.

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