Perry County Central senior Damon Tobler had one of the greatest dunks in Sweet Sixteen history in the Commodores’ win over Pikeville on Wednesday. But, it didn’t count.
Tobler took a blocked shot from the opposite baseline down the floor and took flight against Pikeville defender Connor Risner, who took the brunt of Tobler’s body on a one-handed southpaw slam, which was ruled as an offensive foul.
“No, no I didn’t,” Tobler said with a laugh when asked if he charged on the play. “He kept going back. In my head I’m like, if he goes back one more time, I’m just gonna go up. And he stepped back again, so I just rose.”
“I was celebrating, thinking he called a block but then I looked over at Coach Shannon (Hoskins) and he was like, ‘What?’ and I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ That was it. I just kept playing the game.”
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Tobler, who earlier in the half recorded a chase-down block reminiscent of LeBron James, has also been getting plenty of attention from college recruiters.
The 6-foot-4 senior has scholarship offers from Samford, Winthrop, Tennessee Tech and a few others, and he’s been hearing from some major-conference schools in recent weeks. Coaches from Creighton and Missouri have called, and Western Kentucky watched Tobler play in a game earlier this season.
What position he’s best suited to play at the next level remains an open question.
“I think a lot of people look at Damon as a tweener,” said Perry Central Coach Shannon Hoskins. “He doesn’t really shoot the ball or handle the ball well enough to be a ‘1’ or a ‘2’. Is he big enough to be a ‘3’ or a ‘4’ at a big-time school? I don’t know. But he has worked his butt off. He’s been our center for three years, and now he’s running the point for us.
“He’s put in the hours, and I think he’s done a great job. He’s got a huge heart — that’s the main thing with Damon. I think he can play somewhere and surprise some people because of that.”
Tobler said he’s been focusing on his senior season and won’t fully concentrate on his recruitment until after the state tournament.
Taylor County star Ezra Oliver will be one of the best basketball players on the Rupp Arena court Thursday, but he’ll be competing in a different sport at Campbellsville University next school year.
Oliver has accepted a scholarship to be a member of the Campbellsville bass fishing team.
“When I got here and they told me that, I said, ‘Are you kidding me?!’ Craziest crap I ever heard in my life,” said first-year Taylor County coach Maze Stallworth, who laughed before recalling an exchange between Oliver and a referee at a Christmas week tournament in Nashville this season.
Stallworth says his star player — a 6-foot-1 guard who averages 18.2 points per game — was “killing it” on the court that particular day, and the ref started talking to him during a dead-ball situation.
“Man, I can’t wait to watch you play at the next level,” the official said. “Where you going?”
Oliver explained his future plans, and Stallworth said the referee couldn’t believe it.
“He just thought that was the funniest thing in the world,” the coach said.
Campbellsville added co-ed bass fishing as a varsity sport in 2014, and the team competes in several tournaments throughout the year.
Fern Creek brings a 19-game winning streak into Thursday’s Sweet Sixteen game against Hopkinsville, which happens to be the last team to beat the 6th Region champions.
Hoptown defeated Fern Creek 78-58 on a neutral court Jan. 7. Both head coaches — Hopkinsville’s Tim Haworth and Fern Creek’s James Schooler — are Murray State alums and have become great friends over the years. “He’s like a brother to me,” Schooler said last week.
After that blowout victory in January, Schooler said that Haworth whispered something in his ear during the postgame handshake.
“Coach, take this as a lesson and go on and win your region,” the Hoptown coach told him. “I’ll see you at Rupp.”
Amazingly, Fern Creek did indeed win the 6th to earn a trip to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in school history. Schooler promised “a heck of a show” for the rematch in Rupp. Haworth is expecting the same.
“I know he’s going to have his guys ready,” he said.
Chris Vogt played his final game in a Graves County uniform Wednesday, finishing with eight points, nine rebounds and five blocks before fouling out after 25 minutes as the Eagles fell to Bowling Green.
Vogt, a 7-foot-1 senior who’s signed with Northern Kentucky University (and pronounces his name like “vote”), realized as a freshman that Division I basketball could be in the cards. Vogt was 6-foot-8 then, already taller than his brother, a senior.
He’s excited about joining the Norse, who will make their NCAA Tournament debut against the University of Kentucky on Friday night.
“They’ve really turned the program around,” Vogt said. “Coach (John) Brannen’s done a really good job of motivating the younger guys.”
The Norse currently boast five in-state players: Nick Ayers (Simon Kenton), Mason Faulkner (Caverna), Lavone Holland II (Ballard), Drew McDonald (Newport Central Catholic) and Carson Williams (Owen County). Vogt was on the Kentucky Travelers AAU team with Williams when he was a junior and the 2016 Mr. Basketball winner was a senior.
“He was on the older team and I was on the younger team and I just saw him a lot at tournaments and we practiced together and stuff, so I have a pretty good relationship with him,” Vogt said.