Sweet Sixteen: Knott Central shakes off slow start, tops Clay County

mfields@herald-leader.comMarch 7, 2013 

Maybe the Harlem Shake shook Knott County Central out of its slumber.

The Patriots awoke from a sleep-walking start and closed the first half with a 19-3 run that spurred them to a 68-54 victory over Clay County in the final first-round game of the 96th KHSAA Sweet Sixteen in Rupp Arena on Thursday night.

Knott Central advanced to the quarterfinals for the second year in a row and will play tournament favorite Ballard on Friday night.

Clay County had the upper hand early and, sparked by Tyler McDaniel's nine points, led 17-9 at the end of the first quarter.

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That's when the Knott Central student section did a rousing rendition of the Harlem Shake. The Patriots took their cue and began dancing all over Clay County.

After Corey Short hit a three-pointer for Knott Central and Jarrod Rice answered with a three for Clay County, the rest of the second quarter belonged to the Patriots.

Short hit two more threes, and Camron Justice hit one as Knott Central blitzed the Tigers to take a 31-23 halftime lead.

The Patriots controlled the second half and posted their 30th win of the season.

What was the difference between the first and second quarters for Knott Central?

"I thought we took some bad shots early," Coach B.B. King said. "I thought nerves got to us a little. And in the second quarter, our 2-3 zone helped us a lot."

Justice agreed.

"We came out a little nervous, but once we got in the game flow, we started swinging the ball more and getting more open shots," he said.

Justice, a 6-foot-2 sophomore guard who already has several Division I offers (including Tennessee), led Knott Central with 29 points, nine rebounds and four assists. He was 10-for-10 from the foul line in the fourth quarter, and was 13-for-15 on the night.

Chance Cornett, a 6-3 sophomore, had 10 points and 10 rebounds. Simon Christon, a 6-3 sophomore, had 12 points and eight rebounds.

Clay County opened the game in a diamond-and-one on Justice, but he's used to seeing gimmick defenses.

"I've been pressured all year, but I've got to be patient," he said. "I trust my teammates. I gotta do my thing and they do their thing, and at the end if we have a win, I'm satisfied."

Christon said the student section's revelry helped awaken the Patriots, but he also credited "moving the ball around. That got everybody involved and that's what got us started."

Clay County Coach Robert Marcum thought poor shot selection cost his team in the decisive second quarter.

"We quit attacking the rim," he said. "Our shot chart looked like we took 10 or 11 three-pointers."

McDaniel did all he could to keep the Tigers ticking. The 5-11 sophomore had 21 points and nine rebounds. Jarrod Rice had 12 points and Kody Reed added 10.

Clay County coaching legend Bobby Keith was on the bench to lend his support to the Tigers, who were making their first state tournament appearance since 2001.

Marcum wanted to pay tribute to Keith, who led Clay County to the 1987 state title.

Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337 Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com

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