Great Crossing boys' basketball is back on the plus side of the ledger after a thrilling, 53-50 win over Hopkinsville in the opening round of the Roy's Bar-B-Que/First Southern National Bank tournament at Logan County in Russellville.
Michael McKenzie, K.J. Tucker and Jaylen Barber each scored 11 points for Great Crossing (5-4), which won for the fifth time in its past six games.
McKenzie tied the game with a second-chance 3-pointer, then put the Warhawks in front by virtue of an old-fashioned 3-point play with 1:49 left.
“The first one I missed the shot, and then Tye (Schureman) tipped the ball to Neil (Baker), who made a perfect pass to get it back to me,” McKenzie said. “Then for the and-one, we spread the floor for me, I made a move and saw a bunch of guys coming after it. So I just shot it, and they fouled me.”
GC left the door ajar with an 8-for-16 showing from the free-throw line, but Tyler Sparks knocked one down to make it a 3-point lead in the closing seconds.
Hopkinsville (4-6) had two good looks at the potential game-tying three, the second rattling in-and-out as time expired.
Coach Steve Page was happy to survive and advance to Saturday's semifinals at 6 p.m. against Louisville Collegiate.
“We told the kids that we were the better team, but that they were capable of beating us if they played harder than we did, and they played harder than we did,” Page said. “Instead of playing hard for 32 minutes, we play for three then take five off, then pick it up for three more. It's a little bit frustrating for us as a coaching staff.
“At the end of the day, it should be a good trip and a good bonding experience, and it's a lot easier to bond when you're coming off a win in that first game.”
Barber was double and triple-teamed on the offensive end but still managed a game-high 16 rebounds, 10 on the defensive glass to limit Hopkinsville's second opportunities.
“They were just very physical,” Barber said. “They beat me up like a rag doll.”
Baker battled foul trouble to finish with four assists.
GC trailed 7-2 before scoring 16 of the next 18 points to take its largest lead of the game. Key bench contributions from Sparks, Dominique Smiley and Kalib Perry (seven combined points) helped stave off the Tigers' comeback and left the Warhawks in front, 26-24, at intermission.
“Losing Neil for all but about four minutes of the half kind of took us out of our flow,” Page said, “But I was planning to play a lot of kids, and that's how the game played out.”
Hopkinsville used a late free throw to grab a 38-37 lead at the end of three. Don Victor's 3-pointer was one of the few fourth-quarter highlights for the Tigers among McKenzie's heroics.
Friday's finish reminded McKenzie of a last-second loss to Bryan Station earlier this month.
“I think it's very important for us to win a game that kind of played out the same way at the end,” he said.
The championship and consolation games will be played Sunday.
Page picked the Logan County tournament, three hours from home, after his team's original Christmas shootout in Boyle County was canceled.
“It's a chance to stay in a hotel, grow together as a team and face some teams we wouldn't normally see. That's 100 percent why I scheduled it,” he said. “It's six Western Kentucky teams and one from Louisville. That said, just about all our kids had a set of parents here, so we had a nice crowd.”
Blue Star Invitational Girls
Keenan (South Carolina) 77, Scott County 55
An unstoppable freshman spoiled Scott County's chances of winning another out-of-state girls' basketball tournament Friday night.
Milaysia Fulwiley, a 5-foot-5 point guard, drained six 3-pointers and piled up 33 points for Keenan High School of Columbia, South Carolina, which cruised to a 77-55 victory in the quarterfinals of the Blue Star Invitational.
"Defensively we struggled to guard what may be one of the best freshmen I've ever seen," SC coach Steve Helton said. "She shot the ball well tonight, which just broke our back. Not only could she score, she made others better, because she required so much attention."
Tamara Davis added 14 points and Brooklyn Woods nine for the Lady Raiders (3-4), who lost in South Carolina's Class 3A state championship game last winter.
SC (6-4) swept tourneys in Tennessee and Florida last December but will slide into the consolation bracket of this national showcase.
The Lady Cards, who entered the game on their second three-game winning streak of the season, fell into a 25-15 hole in the first quarter and saw the gap increase to 15 points early in the second.
A modest rally trimmed that deficit to 41-33 at halftime, but Fulwiley's fourth, fifth and sixth 3-pointers of the night fueled an 18-11 Raider run in the third period.
"We played poorly on both sides of the ball," Helton said. "Offensively we struggled with any flow. Shots weren't falling, so we went into stand and watch mode (on defense). We couldn't do anything right tonight, and everything they touched turned to gold."
Morgan DeFoor led Scott County with 14 points, while Malea Wiliams added 10.
Both seniors entered the game scoring 18 per game. SC was held more than 20 points below its team average, which is No. 2 in Kentucky.
Tyra Young's six points and Brianna Penney's five off the bench were a bright spot for SC, which takes on Spalding (10-2) of Griffin, Georgia, at 6 p.m. Saturday.
"It don't get any easier," Helton said.
After a day of rest, the tournament will conclude Monday.
Ashland Invitational Boys
Boyd County 69, Scott County 57
Scott County's aspirations of winning the 65th annual Ashland Invitational boys' basketball tournament were just about over before they ever got started Friday night.
Eighteen turnovers underscored a dreadful first half for SC, which never recovered in a 69-57 loss to Boyd County.
It took a 17-2 run at the finish, orchestrated by the bench, to get the Cards (4-5) that close. SC finished the game with more turnovers (26) than made field goals (23).
Blake Stewart knocked down four 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 23 points for Boyd County (6-4), whose only losses came last week at the Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas. Stewart also made five steals.
The Lions also received 12 points from Gaylon Cisco, who entered the game averaging 4.3 per contest.
Boyd County led 17-8 after one quarter. SC failed to make a dent in that margin over the next eight minutes, trailing 36-26 at the half.
Another 17-7 pickup in the third period put it away for the Lions, who held the Cards to 33.3 percent for the second half and 38.3 overall.
Elias Richardson led Scott County with 16 points, seven rebounds and four steals.
JZ Middleton saw his first substantial varsity action in the final nine minutes and took advantage to the tune of 6-for-8 from the floor and 15 points, including three 3-pointers.
Boyd County contained SC's leading scorer on the season, Terrin Hamilton, to seven points.
SC takes on Christian County at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in a consolation bracket game. The tournament wraps up Sunday,