LOUISVILLE — "For a game in June, are you kidding me? I thought it was a helluva game."
The 2,178 fans in Bellarmine University's Knights Hall would agree with Ron Hecklinski, the Indiana coach, after his Hoosier boys rallied to edge Kentucky 100-97 in the annual Kentucky-Indiana All-Star Basketball Classic.
The series shifts to Indianapolis on Saturday, when the Hoosiers shoot for their fifth sweep in six years. Indiana leads the all-time series 82-42.
Kentucky led by as many as 11 points in the second half, and by nine (92-83) with less than four minutes left.
A 13-5 run over the next 2:45 brought the visitors to within a point, 97-96.
Terone Johnson, a 6-3 Purdue signee, led the charge with three buckets, including a three-pointer. Neal Beshears and Tyrae Robinson added a three-pointer each.
Not until Johnson drove through traffic and twisted through for a layup with 34 seconds left did Indiana regain the lead, 98-97.
Taylor Epley (Trinity, Williams College) missed a three-pointer with six seconds left, the rebound grabbed by McDonald's All-American and Ohio State-bound DeShaun Thomas. With 3.7 seconds left, Thomas sank a pair of free throws.
After an inbounds pass and a timeout at 2.9, Epley was able to launch a desperate three, with Beshears in his face, but it came up short.
"The second-to-last one I had a wide-open look and I just blew it," Epley said.
Johnson led the winners with 23 points. Thomas, 6-7, had 18 points and 13 rebounds, while Butler recruit Chrishawn Hopkins had 17 points.
Will Evans (Lexington Christian, Ashland) shot 4-for-5 from three-point range and led Kentucky with 20 points. Aaron Watts (McCreary Central, undecided), 6-for-8 from long range, had 18 points. Epley added 11. So did Holmes products Elijah Pittman and Ricardo Johnson, with each grabbing eight rebounds.
Kentucky outscored Indiana 36-18 with three-point shots and 10-2 on points on turnovers. Not enough, though.
"The last two minutes, they made the offensive plays that they needed," said Mike Listerman, the Kentucky coach from Covington Catholic. "They stuck the ball in the bucket."
Kentucky was supposed to be no match for Indiana on Friday night.
While Indiana boasted eight players 6-foot-6 or taller, bound for colleges such as Ohio State, Purdue, Michigan State and Butler, Kentucky came in with Lexington Catholic's Tanner Peurach at 6-8, a trio of 6-7 players and one at 6-6. Their college careers will continue at the likes of Ashland, Williams, Transylvania and Bellarmine. Mr. Basketball, Shelby Valley's Elisha Justice, is bound for Louisville after first pledging to attend as a walk-on.
"Division 4, Division 7, Division 9 — cram it in the toilet because it means nothing on game night," Hecklinski said.
"I just think they were basketball players and they competed their guts out."
Kentucky's players certainly were not intimidated.
"No," said Pittman, who will play for Chipola College next season. "It's all about play."
Justice summoned a quote from his coach at Shelby Valley, Jason Booher.
"You respect everyone," Justice said, "but you fear nobody."
Indiana led 39-38 at halftime, but Kentucky built a 56-48 edge less than seven minutes into the second half.
It wouldn't quite last, though.
"We couldn't stop them the last two minutes," Listerman said. "And we went 2-for-7. Right there's the difference in the game. ... What a gutty game. I'm so proud of the way they played."
"That's hard," Justice said. "We had them right were we wanted them and we just didn't finish strong."
■ Trinity's Josh Sewell was dismissed from the Kentucky team for what Listerman called "a violation of team rules."