Madison Central's boys basketball state champions should be exhausted by celebration. Since cutting down the nets in Rupp Arena on Sunday, the Indians have been feted by their classmates, fans, state legislators, governor and city commissioners. They even schmoozed with Coach Cal and his Cats at practice at the Joe Craft Center.
Madison Central's players could probably use another ice bath about now.
After grueling back-to-back wins over Holmes and Hopkinsville in the quarterfinals and semifinals on Friday and Saturday, the Indians went to the home of Dr. Robert Palmer in Richmond late Saturday night and took ice baths to reinvigorate them for Sunday's finals.
"We'd never tried that before, but we'd never had any game that important before," Coach Allen Feldhaus Jr. said.
It must have worked.
Madison Central rallied from its biggest deficit of the season (16 points) and beat Ballard 65-64 on Ken-Jah Bosley's three-pointer with five seconds left. "I thought we'd make a run, but I didn't know if we had the legs to sustain it," Feldhaus said.
Was it the ice baths?
Nah. It was the Indians' remarkable resolve that was evident all season.
In December, they beat St. Xavier 79-76 in overtime in the King of the Bluegrass after Bosley hit two threes in the last six seconds of regulation to force overtime. Two nights later they were down 15 in the third quarter to host Fairdale, and five down with 27 seconds left, but won 87-86 in OT again.
In the 11th Region semifinals Madison Central trailed Henry Clay 56-52 with two minutes left, but won 60-56.
In the Sweet Sixteen the Indians were down three to Holmes with less than three minutes left but escaped 65-61. The next night they erased a 12-point deficit against Hopkinsville in the semifinals and won 60-56. Against Ballard they dug themselves out of a deep hole one last time.
"All those comebacks showed people our kids have a never-give-up attitude," Feldhaus said. "We couldn't have written a better script."
■ If Dominique Hawkins wins Mr. Basketball, he'll be the fifth player in six years to win that award after leading his team to the state title in his senior season. The previous winners: Trinity's Nathan Dieudonne (2012), Christian County's Anthony Hickey (2011), Shelby Valley's Elisha Justice (2010) and Mason County's Darius Miller (2008).
■ Of all the photos taken after Sunday's victory, Allen Feldhaus Jr. has a favorite. It shows him with his dad, Allen Sr., and his brothers Willie and Deron, and the championship trophy. "It's on my cellphone now," Allen Jr. said.
■ Ken-Jah Bosley tied a state tournament record by hitting 21 consecutive free throws over four games. He hit his first two foul shots in the first round against Wayne County, missed his next, then made 21 in a row through the finals. He was 23 of 24 (96 percent) overall. Dominique Hawkins was a frequent visitor to the line. He hit 35 of 45 (78 percent). Madison Central made 80 of 110 (73 percent), including 20 in a row in a 29-for-33 performance against Hopkinsville. Ballard made 42 of 77 (55 percent) in its four games.
■ Everybody was buzzing about the atmosphere in Rupp Arena for the terrific semifinals — Madison Central's 60-56 win over Hopkinsville, and Ballard's 59-55 victory over Montgomery County. It was one of the most entertaining final fours ever. But it didn't match the star power in the 1993 semifinals. All four teams had been No. 1 at some point in the season, and each had a Mr. Basketball candidate: Marion County, led by Anthony Epps, beat Male, led by Jason Osborne, 73-68. Paul Laurence Dunbar, led by Darnell Burton, beat Pleasure Ridge Park, led by Danyell Macklin, 65-62. The 1964 final four wasn't too shabby, either. It featured Seneca (Wes Unseld), Breckinridge County (Butch Beard), Hazard (Jim Rose) and Allen County (Norman Weaver).
■ All four teams in this year's semifinals — Madison Central, Hopkinsville, Ballard and Montgomery County — had at least 30 wins each. That hadn't happened since 1994 when Fairdale (32-4), Muhlenberg North (31-4), Dunbar (31-8) and Moore (30-3) were in the final four.
■ Madison Central's quarterfinal win over Holmes featured a fantastic showdown between Madison Central senior point guard Dominique Hawkins (31 points, 12 rebounds) and Holmes sophomore point guard James "Beetle" Bolden (29 points, 13 rebounds). The most amazing statistic in that high-pressure game? Madison Central had only two turnovers. Hawkins had none. Holmes had 13 turnovers, eight by Bolden.
■ Hopkinsville senior Jordan Majors, who averaged 23 points in three games last week, is being recruited by Morehead State, Austin Peay, Wright State as well as Division II schools and junior colleges.
■ Hopkinsville Coach Tim Haworth didn't have time to decompress from the Sweet Sixteen. After the Tigers got back to Hopkinsville on Sunday evening, they were treated to a pep rally. Soon after that, Haworth was rushing his pregnant wife, Leah, to the hospital to give birth to the couple's first child. Their daughter, Madelyn, was born Monday morning at 6:30. Haworth said he was worried about his wife all last week. "The whole time I was thinking, is she gonna have the baby Thursday, Friday? It was one of the best weeks of my life, but definitely one of the most stressful, too."
■ Two years ago, Veontae Lewis hit an 18-foot jump shot as time expired to give Christian County a 65-63 double-overtime victory over Rowan County in the state finals. Last week, Ken-Jah Bosley hit a three-pointer with :05 left to lift Madison Central over Ballard 65-64 in the championship game. We were due these fantastic finishes. Before Christian County's buzzer-beating victory in 2011, it had been 28 years since a boys' state finals had been decided on a last-second shot. In 1983, Greg Bates' put-back gave Henry Clay a 35-33 triple-OT victory over Carlisle County. The year before that, Paul Andrews' half-court heave beat the horn and gave Laurel County a 53-51 win over North Hardin.
■ Nobody appreciated Madison Central's state title more than longtime assistant Kenny Roberts. A 1978 graduate of Madison Central. Roberts has been on the Indians' staff since 1983. "I've seen every team here since 1974," he said. "This was a special group. A once-in-a-lifetime team." Roberts told the other coaches during the region tournament that if the Indians won the state title, he'd shave his head and get an earring. The shaved head wasn't a big deal for the follicly challenged Robert. The earring was. "But it was really worth it," he said. Roberts didn't keep the earring in long, though. "As soon as I got home, my wife said, 'Take that thing out.'"
■ Kyle Congleton, who was a senior on Madison Central's team last year, was invited back to sit on the bench with the Indians in Rupp Arena last week. "He was such a dedicated player and good kid that we rewarded him with that," said Madison Central assistant Kenny Roberts.
■ Madison Central's 65-64 victory over Ballard was the first state finals decided by one point since Hopkinsville edged Clay County by the same score in the 1985 title game. Hoptown didn't need a last-second shot to win, though. Hoptown led 65-64 when it missed the front end of the bonus with 11 seconds left, giving Clay County a chance at victory. But Clay County made a turnover as time expired and Hoptown survived.
■ Johnson Central's Shane Hall is a whole 'nother player when he's healthy. The 6-8 junior, who was slowed by a high-ankle sprain most of the season, looked terrific in the Golden Eagles' first-round loss to Ballard. His four dunks showed he had his hops back. He finished with 28 points and eight rebounds. His niftiest move was a reverse tip-in on an alley-oop pass to the front of the rim. Hall's play in Rupp showed why Tennessee has offered him a scholarship.
■ In four state tournament games the past two years, Knott Central's Camron Justice has 71 points, including 27 of 33 free throws. And he's only a sophomore.
■ The night before Ballard played Madison Central in the state finals, Bruins Coach Chris Renner said in jest, "If I'm Coach Feldhaus, I'm not too worried. I'm 1-3 (in state title games)." Renner led Ballard to the 1999 championship, but his Bruins lost in the finals to Mason County in 2003, Scott County in 2007 and Shelby Valley in 2010. After losing to Madison Central, Renner said he felt "snakebit. I don't know how much more I can take of this ... I've got to go back and evaluate and see if I'm going to keep doing this." Ballard should be rated No. 1 next pre-season with returning starters Quentin Snider, Kelan Martin and Malik Dow.
■ Madison Central won its last 12 games on its way to the state championship. The last team to beat Allen Feldhaus Jr.'s Indians? Russell County, coached by Willie Feldhaus, Allen's brother. So who'll have bragging rights at family gatherings?
■ It's no coincidence that two of the top three crowds in Sweet Sixteen history have included Madison Central's faithful following. In 1987, the Friday night quarterfinal session drew a record 21,283 fans to watch Clay County (led by Richie Farmer) vs. LaRue County, and Madison Central vs. Oldham County. The second-biggest crowd was 20,252 for the 2004 finals between Mason County and Warren Central. Last Saturday's semifinals drew 20,172, with Madison Central and Montgomery County fans making up the majority of the crowd.
■ Montgomery County's Omar Prewitt showed his Mr. Basketball credentials by going for 29 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots in the Indians' win over Warren Central. He totaled 55 points, 25 rebounds and eight blocks in three games. Prewitt finished his career as Montgomery County's all-time leader in points (2,636), rebounds (1,071) and three-pointers (347). Also, Indians Coach Happy Osborne added 32 victories to the 456 he had at Georgetown College, giving him 488 and putting him within reach of 500 next season.