On Tates Creek's senior night, and in their last regular-season game, it was one of their unheralded seniors who fittingly came up with the big play against Woodford County.
The Commodores' lead had been cut to nine with less than six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter when Jordan Hagan came up with a steal. He went coast-to-coast for the layup plus the foul to push Tates Creek's lead back to 12. Hagan's points were part of a late 12-2 run, and Tates Creek pulled away from Woodford County on Thursday night, 54-37.
Hagan, who moved over to the point from his normal shooting guard position, finished the contest with 11 points. He replaced sophomore Ryan Fucci, who was out with a high ankle sprain. Sophomore forward Marcellus Barksdale led the Commodores (13-11) with 14 points.
"It's great that he gets an opportunity to go out a winner like he is on senior night," Tates Creek Coach Wayne Breeden said of Hagan. "I thought he demonstrated some great leadership abilities and really made some game-changing type plays."
Both teams struggled to hit shots from the outside, combining to hit only one three-point field goal.
And when Tates Creek went to a 2-3 zone late in the first quarter, they held Woodford County (13-13) without a field goal for more than 9 minutes. By the time Woodford County forward Brandon Raider hit a layup with 38 seconds to go in the first half, Tates Creek had stretched its lead to eight. A layup at the other end from junior forward Miles Potter gave the Commodores a 20-10 lead going into halftime.
"Our asset is our big man inside. And people figured that out, and they started sagging in on us," said Woodford County Coach Brad Mefford, whose team shot 4-for-16 in the first half. "We didn't shoot the ball very well, and we struggled."
Woodford County's shooting improved in the second half but turnovers dogged the Yellowjackets, leading to easy baskets for the Commodores.
"We thought we could lag a little bit on their shooters. They have an outstanding post player in J.D. Miller and we were trying to limit his touches," Breeden said. "We were able in the second half to pick up the pace a little bit and score more in transition."
Miller led Woodford County with 16 points, including 12 in the second half. Senior forward Brandon Raider chipped in with 10.
Woodford County will play Western Hills in the semifinals of the 41st District tournament on Wednesday. The Yellowjackets have already beaten Western Hills twice this season.
Tates Creek, which goes into the post-season on a three-game winning streak, will play at Paul Dunbar on Monday in the opening game of the 43rd District tournament. They will try to avenge two losses to the Bulldogs during the regular season, including a 61-60 thriller at home on Feb. 5.
"We need to find a way to score one more point this time," Breeden said. "They're an outstanding talented team and they are one of the top 25 teams in the state. We hope that Ryan gets better and can play a bit on Monday."
But even if Fucci can't go, Hagan has no reservations about playing Dunbar for a third time.
"We are itching to play Dunbar, and we are definitely ready for them," he said.