Dominique Hawkins and his Madison Central teammates must eat barbed wire for breakfast, nails for lunch and top it all off with hearty shrapnel soup for supper.
These guys are tough.
Madison Central, which needed a late comeback to get by Holmes in overtime in Friday's quarterfinals, showed true grit again by rallying from 12 points down to beat Hopkinsville 60-56 in the semifinals of the 96th KHSAA Sweet Sixteen in Rupp Arena on Saturday night.
A record semifinals crowd of 20,172 watched Madison Central earn a spot in Sunday afternoon's title game against Ballard.
Hawkins once again led the Indians' charge. The 6-foot-1 senior, validating his Mr. Basketball candidacy for the umpteenth time, had 23 of his 30 points in the second half. He also had 10 rebounds, three steals and was a bear on defense.
Madison Central overcame awful field-goal shooting (14-for-46) with fabulous free-throw accuracy (29-for-33, including 17-for-20 by Hawkins), and some tenacious second-half man-to-man defense.
"How in the world can you shoot 30 percent and still come out with a victory?" Indians Coach Allen Feldhaus Jr. said. "I know the answer, but it's still amazing to me."
Feldhaus expanded on his answer, saying: "Our philosophy at Madison Central is based around toughness. We want our kids to be tough.
"This is a special group because they haven't been fed with a silver spoon their whole life. They've had to work for everything."
They certainly had to work to beat Hopkinsville, which whipped the Indians in every facet of the game for most of three quarters.
Jordan Majors, the Tigers' explosive 6-2 senior guard, had 26 points through three quarters. Madison Central couldn't contain him, and Hopkinsville had a 46-34 lead to show for it.
But Hawkins put the 'D' on Majors after that, limiting him to five free throws the rest of the way.
Indians senior guard Ken-Jah Bosley, who missed his first 12 shots, finally hit a 15-footer and followed with a fast-break layup to help fuel Madison Central's rally.
Over the last 1:30 of the third quarter and the first four minutes of the fourth, the Indians blitzed Hopkinsville 18-3 to lead 52-49.
It was a fight to the finish from there.
Hopkinsville overcame a 55-51 deficit to go ahead 56-55 on Majors' free throws.
After Hawkins misfired on a three, Hopkinsville's Tra Edwards missed a driving layup and Bosley got the rebound.
After a timeout, Hawkins drove the lane, was fouled and hit two free throws to regain the lead for the Indians at 57-56 with 36 seconds left.
It was Majors' turn on center stage under the bright lights. With Hawkins hounding him, he went to the rim but was jammed up inside and threw up an awkward shot that appeared to hit the bottom of the backboard.
Madison Central got the rebound, Hawkins wound up with the ball and was fouled.
He hit the first of two free throws with :10 left to make it 58-56, then missed the second. But Indians leaper Quan Taylor went up and got the biggest rebound of his life.
"I told Dominique before he shot, 'Man, I'm your backbone. I'll be there for you,'" Taylor said. "If he was going to miss it, I was going to get it."
He then shoveled the ball to Hawkins, who again was fouled and hit two clinching free throws with :05 left.
Hawkins wasn't surprised by Madison Central's latest defeat-defying feat.
"We've been in that situation before, so there wasn't any pressure," he said. "I knew everything was going to be OK."
Hopkinsville Coach Tim Haworth said free throws were "where the game was won."
Hopkinsville, which had a 25-game winning streak snapped, was led by Majors' 31 points. Tra Edwards had 11 points. Sophomore star Jaqualis Matlock was held to three points but did grab 11 rebounds.
Finals: Madison Central vs. Ballard
When: 2 p.m. Where: Rupp Arena
TV/radio: CWKYT-27.2, WVLK-AM 590, WVLK-FM 101.5; plus iHigh's online broadcast on Kentucky.com
Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337 Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com