Henry Clay's Jordan Green had only one thing on his mind as the final seconds ticked away with the Blue Devils tied with Knott County Central in the semifinals of the Republic Bank Holiday Classic at Lexington Catholic on Saturday night.
"All I could think of was, 'we gotta win, we gotta win,'" Green said.
So Green made it happen.
The 6-foot-4 junior sold a shot fake, then drove for a layup with one second left that gave Henry Clay a 57-55 win.
"I saw 'em running out on me, so I pump-faked, went around 'em and it worked out," Green said.
No. 5 Henry Clay advances to play No. 8 Lexington Catholic in Sunday night's finals.
The Knights, led by Dillon Avare's 21 points, seven rebounds and three assists, beat Cincinnati Roger Bacon 74-66 in their semifinal.
Henry Clay Coach Daniel Brown was happy to see his team pushed to the limit by Knott Central.
"We needed a close game, we needed somebody to challenge us," he said.
"We didn't play our best, but a lot of that had to do with Knott Central — they may be the best team in the mountains. But we hung in there, didn't panic and we made plays at the end."
Knott Central, which lost for the first time this season, rallied from a 10-point deficit to take a 53-52 lead early in the fourth quarter.
It was a tight, deliberate fight the rest of the way.
Chance Little's rebound basket for Knott Central tied it 55-55 with 32 seconds left.
That set the stage for Green's winning shot.
Christen Cunningham led the Devils with 17 points. Green had 12 points, five assists and four rebounds. Trey Grundy added 10 points and nine rebounds.
Spotty free-throw shooting (10-for-20) almost cost Henry Clay.
But that didn't affect Knott Central Coach B.B. King's opinion of the Devils.
"They're as good as anybody. I think they're the No. 1 team in the state," he said.
King's Patriots, who were No. 19 in the pre-season, have probably played their way into the top 10 or higher by winning 11 of 12 games.
Camron Justice, a sophomore point guard, had 23 points and 11 rebounds against Henry Clay. Evan Hall, a 6-6 sophomore, had 15 points and six rebounds.
Knott Central outrebounded the bigger Devils 34-28, and had only 10 turnovers against their quickness.
Lexington Catholic 74, Roger Bacon 66: Avare had plenty of offensive support from his teammates.
Jack Whitman and Tanner Johnson had 13 points apiece, and Jarod Griffin added 12. Whitman and Griffin were a combined 19-for-23 from the foul line.
But it was Avare who provided the spark when it was needed the most.
He hit three three-pointers in the third quarter to help the Knights pull away from a 33-33 halftime tie and into a 54-45 lead. When Roger Bacon rallied in the fourth, Avare hit his fifth three of the night to regain the momentum for Lexington Catholic.
Coach Brandon Salsman said he's told Avare that if he hits two threes in a row, he "can shoot from half court if he wants, He's always got the green light."
Avare, who also had five threes in Friday's win over Clark County, loves having the freedom to fire away.
"Knowing the coach has confidence in me gives me confidence in myself," he said. "And my teammates get me the ball in the right spot so I can shoot it whenever."
Hitting threes is routine for Avare, so he was prouder of his seven rebounds.
"He made sure to tell me that was his career high," Salsman said.
Roger Bacon, which was 8-0 coming into the game, was led by Austin Frentsos' 26 points and Carlas Jackson's 18.
Spartans Coach Brian Neal was disappointed in his team's defense.
"Lexington Catholic made a lot of shots, but when you don't guard, that's what tends to happen."
Neal didn't complain about his team getting whistled for 25 fouls to the Knights' 14. Roger Bacon shot 12 free throws compared to 30 for Lexington Catholic.
"We have to be smart and adjust to the officiating," Neal said. "Over the course of three days here, we haven't done that."
Consolation games: Jon Lannertone had 19 points and Matt Rose had 18 to lead Lexington Christian past Paintsville 81-68. Matt Daniels had six threes and 25 points for Paintsville. ... Freshman Braxton Beverly's 26 points, and Justin Johnson's 23 points and 16 rebounds powered Perry Central past Ohio County 82-73. ... Khmarkis Blanton's 19 points and nine rebounds helped Clark County roll by Somerset Academy, Fla., 73-47.
KNOTT CENTRAL (11-1) — Justice 23, Hall 15, Christon 9, Cornett 2, Shrum 4, Little 2.
HENRY CLAY (11-1) — Green 12, Grundy 10, Cunningham 17, Newby 6, Tisdale 6, Ware 6.
Knott Central 13 17 18 7—55
Henry Clay 23 14 13 7—57
ROGER BACON (8-1) — Frentsos 26, Jackson 18, Edwards 11, Niesen 6, Moore 4, Higgs 1.
LEXINGTON CATHOLIC (9-4) — Avare 21, Whitman 13, Griffin 12, Johnson 13, Fraliex 3, Talbott 2, Dence 3, Ryan 2, Banahan 5.
Roger Bacon 19 14 12 21—66
Lexington Catholic 15 18 21 20—74
Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com