Sweet Sixteen: Hopkinsville breaks open tight game late to reach semis

mmaloney@herald-leader.comMarch 8, 2013 

Talk about weird.

Hopkinsville shot 30.6 percent from the field Friday, yet found a way into Saturday's semifinals of the KHSAA Boys' State Tournament.

The Tigers were too tough on defense for Graves County to handle, as Hopkinsville pulled out a 50-34 victory in Rupp Arena.

While Hoptown struggled to make 15 of 49 field-goal attempts, the Tigers held Graves County to 13-for-51 (25.5 percent).

"Obviously it was a game we struggled shooting the basketball," winning coach Tim Haworth said. "It was just a weird game.

"It was a game where I felt the pace was ours early, even though the score wasn't showing it. I think we had a very good game defensively. I don't think we'll shoot that bad again."

Hopkinsville (33-4) will take a 25-game winning streak into a Final Four matchup against upper-bracket favorite Madison Central.

Jordan Majors, a 6-foot-3 senior, led Hoptown with 17 points. Jaqualis Matlock, a 6-2 sophomore, had 13 points and 10 rebounds.

Peyton Puckett was the only Graves County player with more than four points. The 6-3 junior totaled 19 points and seven rebounds.

"We got after it defensively," Haworth said. "We forced them into 18 turnovers. I know at the half we had 18 deflections and, like I told you guys yesterday, if we get 40-plus deflections we're undefeated as long as I'm the coach here at Hopkinsville."

Graves County closed the half on a 7-0 run — five points by Puckett, two by Mason Beale — to cut a nine-point Hopkinsville lead to 18-16. The game was tied at 27 through three quarters.

The fourth quarter was all Hoptown, though, 23-7. The Tigers scored the first five points of the period, capped by Matlock's steal and dunk.

Graves was still within 36-32 with less than three minutes to play, but was outscored 14-2 the rest of the way.

"I felt like we had a good game plan going in. Some things we did early worked, and we got them standing around a little bit, taking some shots we wanted them to take," Graves Coach Terry Birdsong said. "The dam only held for so long. There are just too many weapons. ...

"We were right where we wanted to be at the end of the half. We were right where we wanted to be at the end of the third quarter, 27-up. It was a six-point game there for a while, with time running down, and then we just had a couple of untimely turnovers."

Hoptown outscored Graves 18-5 at the free throw line, going 10-for-12 in the last three minutes.

"Today, our halfcourt defense won us the game," Haworth said, "because we weren't scoring."

Scoring just enough.

Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229 Twitter: @MarkMaloneyHL Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com

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