Henry Clay Coach Daniel Brown wanted no credit for Christen Cunningham's game-winning three-point play that gave the No. 4 Blue Devils a 64-61 victory over No. 13 Paul Laurence Dunbar in the S.T. Roach Classic on Thursday night.
After Dunbar's Will Gary hit one of two free throws to tie it 61-61 with six seconds left, Cunningham knew what to do. He said Brown had told him in a previous timeout "not to settle, get to the rim."
Cunningham did just that, running a one-man fast break as time ticked away. He drove into the lane, hit the layup and was fouled with nine-tenths of a second left. He cashed the free throw to finish off Henry Clay's 10th win in a row over the Bulldogs.
"That's nothing I drew up," Brown said of Cunningham's mad dash to victory. "That's just No. 1 making a play."
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Nobody thought Henry Clay would need any last-second heroics when it led Dunbar 38-22 at halftime.
The Devils' Jordan Green, a 6-foot-4 junior, had 22 points alone in the first half, and 6-5 senior Darien Tichenor had 13 rebounds, six of them on the offensive glass.
Dunbar, on the other hand, looked in disarray.
"We weren't flat. It was like we were almost too excited and playing out of control," Coach Scott Chalk said.
The second half was a different story.
Dunbar, wearing green Bearcats uniforms in honor of S.T. Roach's old Dunbar teams, started helping out on defense.
The Bulldogs' E.J. Floreal came alive and started attacking the basket, getting all of his 12 points in the second half. Gary and Eric Trigg also picked up their offensive games on the way to 18 and 17 points, respectively.
After missing its first 10 three-pointers, Dunbar finally connected from long range, with Gary nailing a pair in the second half that helped rally the hosts.
The teams battled back-and-forth the entire fourth quarter, with both teams squandereing chances by missing free throws.
That left things up to Cunningham, who felt obligated to do something. He said he played a "stupid" (and scoreless) first half, and a sloppy third quarter "when I turned the ball over too much.
"At the end, I felt I had to make a play for my team."
Henry Clay won despite playing without 6-6 junior Trey Grundy, who was nursing an ankle sprain.
"We pulled together without Trey. That shows something about our team," said Cunningham, who finished with 11 points.
Green led the Devils with 25 points. Tichenor had 10 points and 17 rebounds.
Dunbar could take something positive -- a great second-half rally against a top-5 team -- from the loss.
"Take away the first half tonight, and in the last month we've played better and better every night," Chalk said.
Henry Clay 64, Dunbar 61
HENRY CLAY (15-2) — Green 25, Cunningham 11, Tichenor 10, Tisdale 8, Setzer 3, Ware 3, Newby 4.
PAUL DUNBAR (11-6) — Smith 6, Floreal 12, Gary 18, Trigg 17, Williams 6, King 2.
Henry Clay 15 23 8 18—64
Paul Dunbar 8 14 23 16—61