RICHMOND — Franklin County's players and coaches leaped in celebration after Lyndon McKee's last-second put-back gave the Flyers an apparent one-point victory over Henry Clay in the boys' 11th Region Tournament Thursday night.
Seconds later, however, the Flyers stood in disbelief when referees waved off McKee's basket, saying it had come after the buzzer.
Henry Clay's players and coaches waited to make sure what they were seeing and hearing was true. The officiating crew of Kevin Walter, Bo Queen and Dustin Music didn't change the call, and the Blue Devils ran off the court celebrating their 44-43 escape.
Henry Clay will face Lafayette in Saturday's semifinals. The Generals beat Madison Central 61-47 in Thursday night's first game.
Henry Clay Coach Daniel Brown, like everybody else in McBrayer Arena, needed time to absorb the controversial finish to the nightcap. "I just leave it in the referees' hands," he said. "Fortunately, the call went our way tonight."
A dejected Franklin County coach Scott Chalk sat outside his team's locker room after the heart-breaking loss.
Did Chalk think McKee's shot was good? "No," he said. "I know it was good.
"It hit the backboard before the (red) light went on. It was obviously good.
"It's unconscionable for that to happen. There's absolutely no reason for that to happen."
The messy finish overshadowed an exciting fourth quarter. Franklin County wiped out a seven-point deficit to take a 43-39 lead with a minute left.
Henry Clay's Brandon Nichols hit a three-pointer to make it 43-42. Teammate Wes Kimball then came up with a steal and hit a layup to give the Devils a 44-43 lead with 25 seconds left.
"Magical moments happen this time of year when you make plays like that," Brown said.
The Flyers got the ball up the court and called a timeout with 10 seconds left.
When play resumed, Brandon Jennels lost track of time and launched a 30-foot three that missed badly, but the ball wound up in McKee's hands to the left of the basket.
He didn't hesitate and shoveled it up and in, but not quick enough in the referee's eyes.
Trae Stewart had 10 points and seven rebounds for Henry Clay. Kimball also had 10 points. Marquel Johnson added nine. Daniel Kiesling contributed eight points and nine rebounds.
Franklin County senior Vance Hall closed out his career with a strong performance: 27 points, including 9-for-10 free throws, and eight rebounds. Michael Samples had 10 points, including eight in the fourth quarter.
There was no such drama in the first game as No. 23 Lafayette, led by the outside sniping of Tanner Napier, shot holes in the Indians' zone defense and never trailed.
Napier, who shot well from long range in the region here last year, hit four three-pointers, three in the first 10 minutes to help Lafayette build a 14-point lead.
"I love shooting in this gym," said Napier, who led the Generals with 15 points. "I find the rim as soon as I arrive and knock it down."
Lafayette was 6-for-16 on threes, an improvement over their 4-for-21 effort in the district loss to Tates Creek.
Madison Central Coach Allen Feldhaus Jr. used the same strategy as Tates Creek, daring the Generals to fire away.
"Our only chance was to play zone and hope they missed the basket," Feldhaus said. "But they came out and hit five threes in the first half."
Madison Central pulled to within 42-35 midway through the third quarter before Lafayette went to a trapping press that ignited a 10-0 run and sealed the victory.
"We forced some turnovers and got some easy baskets, and I thought that stretch was the difference in the game," Coach Greg Coldiron said.
While Napier was doing the job from the perimeter, his teammates filled their roles.
Domonique Hagans, a 6-foot-2 senior, had 13 points, 13 rebounds and five steals. Jackson Davis, a 6-7 eighth-grader, had nine points and eight rebounds. Dee Yarbrough also had nine points, and Eric Shaw came off the bench to get seven points and seven rebounds.
Dominique Hawkins, who took over at point for Madison Central in the last week of the season, gave a glimpse of what the region is going to be facing the next three years. He had 23 points, four rebounds, four assists and four steals.
"He's going to be a special player," Feldhaus said.
Hunter Allen and Nick Ford combined for 15 points and 15 rebounds.
HENRY CLAY (16-16) — Kiesling 4-9 0-4 8, Stewart 5-5 0-0 10, Nichols 2-4 1-2 7, Johnson 2-5 3-3 9, Kimball 5-12 0-0 10, Prewitt 0-1 0-0 0, Smith 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 18-38 4-9 44.
FRANKLIN COUNTY (20-8) — Hall 9-19 9-10 27, McKee 0-3 0-0 0, Samples 5-7 0-2 10, Jennels 0-9 0-0 0, Burton 1-3 0-0 3, Meyer 1-3 0-0 3, Thompson 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 16-46 9-12 43.
Henry Clay 10 7 15 12—44
Franklin County 9 8 8 18—43
LAFAYETTE (21-6) — Napier 4-11 3-3 15, Davis 4-7 1-2 9, Hagans 5-11 3-9 13, Walker 1-5 0-1 2, Wilkerson 1-2 0-0 3, Yarbrough 2-7 5-6 9, Burton 1-2 0-0 3, Shaw 3-6 1-4 7. Totals 21-51 13-24 61.
MADISON CENTRAL (10-21) — Hawkins 7-9 8-11 23, Allen 4-8 0-3 8, Ford 3-13 1-2 7, Covington 2-7 3-5 7, Pyatt 1-6 0-0 2, Taylor 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 17-44 12-21 47.
Lafayette 17 18 15 11—61
Madison Central 12 12 11 12—47