A thriller of a finish didn't exactly thrill Ridge Wilson.
And he was on the winning team.
Wilson, a University of Kentucky football recruit, totaled 16 points and six rebounds to help Central edge Graves County 53-51 Wednesday night in the opening round of the National City Boys' Sweet Sixteen.
But it was difficult to overlook the fact that the Yellowjackets blew a 13-point halftime lead to fall behind by seven points early in the fourth quarter. It took a putback by 5-foot-9 Alex Morrison — off a Wilson miss — to break a 51-all tie with 22 seconds left.
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"Coming into the game, we pretty much underestimated the team," Wilson said. "And, just like Coach (Doug Bibby) said, they gave us everything they had. The third quarter, it's like we gave up, and they went on a big run. It's like we won, but we won ugly. I just felt like we could have done better."
Central (17-14) will have a chance to do better Friday, when it meets Eastern in the quarterfinals.
Morrison's winning basket came off what was supposed to have been a pick-and-roll.
"Once Dawan (Robinson) came off the screen and passed it to Ridge, I seen (Wilson) make a move on the block, so I tried to cut," said Morrison, who finished with 11 points. "Then the shot went up, and I was in the right spot at the right time."
Central never trailed in the first half, bolting to leads of 18-13 through one quarter and 30-17 at halftime.
"We had a bad second quarter," said Terry Birdsong, coach of the Eagles. "At halftime, 19 of their 27 points were off (15) turnovers, in transition. That was the difference in the first half."
Wilson led the Yellowjackets with 10 points, and Robinson had seven.
Everything changed in the third quarter. With Tevin Hill scoring 12 of his 18 points during the period, Graves (23-10) rallied from a 35-26 deficit to take a 42-37 lead into the fourth quarter.
Ryan Vogt opened the fourth-quarter scoring to give the Eagles their biggest lead, 44-37, with 6:49 left. That made it 27-7 in the half, including a 16-3 run over a period of about five minutes.
Graves still led 49-45 with less than 31/2 minutes left.
Marcel Williams, a 6-foot-2 sophomore reserve, cut the lead to one with a three-pointer from the left wing. After a Hill free throw made it 50-48 for Graves, Williams drained another three from straight away for a 51-50 Central lead. According to Central's statistics, Williams came into the game shooting 3-for-28 from long range.
"In the Fairdale game, he knocked down three threes and hit a big bucket," Bibby said. "He banked two, I don't think he called. ... But tonight they were straight in."
Cass McAlpin hit one of two free throws with 1:17 left, knotting the score.
After Morrison's put-back, Graves took a timeout with 15.9 seconds left.
After getting the ball inbounds, the Eagles recognized that Central had switched to a zone.
"Cass instinctively flashed to the elbow. The middle was wide open," Birdsong said.
But Desmond Brown stepped into the passing lane to intercept the pass.
"If (he) doesn't get that steal," Birdsong said, "we've got a clear layup to the basket."
Brown, driving to the other end, was fouled with 4.6 seconds left. Still not in the bonus, Central lost the ball to Hill on the inbounds play.
He dribbled nearly the length of the court before letting fly with a three-point, on-the-run prayer, but hit nothing but air.
"Heck of a game," Bibby said. "I don't really know what happened during that third quarter. But we're definitely blessed to come out victorious."