RICHMOND — Henry Clay's basketball team has been on a dizzying roller-coaster the last seven weeks, but the Blue Devils were smiling after the wild ride they took in their 11th Region opener Tuesday night.
Henry Clay knocked off No. 8 Paul Laurence Dunbar 63-55 in double-overtime in an up-and-down gut-wrencher in Eastern Kentucky University's McBrayer Arena.
"That's what the 11th Region is about — survival," Blue Devils Coach Daniel Brown said. "I gotta give my guys a lot of credit for hanging in there. We could've let it slip away, but we kept fighting."
Henry Clay was 15-2 and No. 5 in the state on Jan. 10, but it went a confounding 7-7 after that, including a 19-point loss to Scott County in the district finals last week.
But the now unranked Devils rediscovered their mojo against Dunbar and will play No. 3 Madison Central in the semifinals Friday. The Indians beat Franklin County 85-49 in the nightcap Tuesday.
Jordan Green and Trey Grundy led Henry Clay.
Green, a 6-foot-4 junior, had 24 points, including a nasty long-arm baseline dunk over Dunbar's 6-7 Taylor King late in regulation.
"Defensive stops and rebounding, and keeping our team chemistry, that's what won it for us," Green said. "And yes, that was one of my better dunks."
Grundy, a 6-6 junior, had 19 points and 12 rebounds.
Henry Clay had a chance to win in regulation, but it literally kicked the ball out of bounds after running down the clock to the last second.
Dunbar took control early in the first overtime. Donnie Lewis hit a three-pointer, and William Gary hit two free throws to put the Bulldogs up 49-45, and they regained possession with less than three minutes left.
But they couldn't hold on.
Henry Clay tied it on Green's two foul shots and Grundy's rebound basket.
Dunbar had the last shot in the first OT, but Mike Smith's long three-point try from the right wing didn't come close.
Henry Clay got a jump-start in the second OT when Teddy Ware hit a three from the right corner to put the Devils up 52-49.
"The biggest three I ever made," Ware said.
Brown agreed: "Teddy's shot got us going."
Henry Clay kept expanding its lead thanks to Christen Cunningham, who had nine points, including 6 out of 6 free throws, in the last 1:10.
Dunbar, denied its first win in the region since 2008, was led by Gary's 17 points. Smith had nine points, seven rebounds and five assists. Eric Trigg added nine points and four rebounds.
"No question we had our chances," Bulldogs Coach Scott Chalk said. "We were up in the first overtime, but we had a couple turnovers and a couple ill-advised shots. But we were aggressive. The guys were trying their best."
Chalk, a veteran of 11th Region competition, knew what Dunbar was up against: "There are probably 10 regions, maybe more, that don't have a team as good as Henry Clay," he said.
Madison Central 85, Franklin County 49: It was all tied after 10 minutes, but it was all Madison Central after that. The Indians broke out of a 23-23 deadlock with a 21-6 run over the last six minutes of the second quarter to take a 44-29 halftime lead.
The Indians were led by senior stars Dominique Hawkins (21 points, five rebounds), Ken-Jah Bosley (19 points, including three threes) and Quan Taylor (17 points).
Daniel Parke had three points, six assists and six steals. Sam Jones had 12 points and five rebounds off the bench.
Madison Central Coach Allen Feldhaus Jr. thought his team was tight in the early going. "First-round game in the regional tournament, I've seen it before," he said. "But then Ken-Jah hit a couple threes, we got our press going, Quan got a dunk, and it was back to normal after that."
Rylan Rowe had 21 points for the Flyers. Lorenzo McCaskell had 15 points. Chris Roberts added six points and 11 rebounds.
Friday's semifinals should be terrific, with Scott County taking on archrival Lexington Catholic, and Madison Central going against Henry Clay. "That's the 11th Region at its best," Feldhaus said. "It should be a great atmosphere in here Friday night."
Henry Clay 63, Paul Dunbar 55 (2OT)
HENRY CLAY (23-9) — Green 24, Grundy 19, Ware 7, Tichenor 2, Tisdale 2, Cunningham 9.
PAUL DUNBAR (19-10) — Gary 17, Smith 9, Floreal 2, Lewis 7, Trigg 9, Black 3, King 8.
Henry Clay 12 10 14 8 5 14—63
Paul Dunbar 10 16 13 5 5 6—55
Madison Central 85, Franklin Co. 49
FRANKLIN COUNTY (9-17) — McCaskell 15, Roberts 6, Rowe 21, Schneider 3, Harrod 3, Maupin 1.
MADISON CENTRAL (26-5) — Hawkins 21, Bosley 19, Taylor 17, Jones 12, Stocker 2, Parke 3, Walker 3, George 6, Thomas 2.
Franklin County 16 13 12 8—49
Madison Central 20 24 25 16—85
Henry Clay 63, Dunbar 55 (2OT)
Madison Central 85, Franklin Co. 49
Friday: Lex. Catholic (21-10) vs. Scott Co. (24-7), 6:30 p.m.; Henry Clay (23-9) vs. Madison Central (26-5), 8:15 p.m.
Saturday: Finals, 7:30 p.m.
Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com