RICHMOND — Defending boys' state basketball champion Madison Central lost for the first time in a long time Friday night, and it took a long three-pointer in the final seconds to deal the defeat.
Bryan Wallace of defending 10th Region champion Montgomery County swished a 25-footer with 1.2 seconds left to give his Indians a 64-62 victory in an early-season thriller.
"It was crazy," Wallace said. "When it left my hands it looked good. When it went in, it was a special moment."
Montgomery County graduated starters Omar Prewitt, a Mr. Basketball finalist, and Tyler Jones off last year's final four team.
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Madison Central graduated its top six players, including its all-state backcourt of Dominique Hawkins, who was Mr. Basketball, and Ken-Jah Bosley.
Despite a rebuilt lineup, Madison Central started this season 4-0, giving it a 16-game winning streak dating to last February.
If it had hit its free throws down the stretch Friday night, it'd still be undefeated.
Nevertheless, it still had a chance to survive. Demarcus George's rebound basket after a missed foul shot gave Madison Central a 62-61 lead with 14 seconds left.
That set the stage for Wallace's heroics.
He was looking to get the ball to Darius Jones on a back-door cut, but Jones couldn't shake his defender.
Wallace instead passed to sophomore Art Walker, who didn't have a shot and got the ball back to Wallace.
With time ticking away, Wallace stepped back and let his long three fly.
Jason Holland, who took over as Montgomery County's coach when Happy Osborne left for Kentucky Wesleyan, was delighted to see Wallace take the game-winner.
"Last year he wasn't the go-to guy," Holland said. "This year we're trying to push that on him more. He did a good job of it tonight. Three-point shooting isn't his strength, but he hit that one. He's just a winner."
Wallace, a 6-foot senior point guard, led the Indians with 23 points, five steals and three assists. Julian Piersawl, a senior guard and another veteran off last year's final four team, had 13 points. Deante Cisero, a 6-4 transfer from Chicago, had 10 points and six rebounds.
Madison Central led most of the way, by as many as nine points in the first half and 11 in the second half. But when Montgomery County turned up the defensive pressure, Madison Central's inexperience showed with ball-handling mistakes.
"They're young and they made some turnovers and we took advantage of them," Wallace said.
Despite the loss, Madison Central Coach Allen Feldhaus Jr. was happy with his team.
"(Montgomery County) had four players who played in the semifinals of the state tournament last year, and they had to hit a pretty good shot to beat us," he said.
"I really think our guys believe they can contend for the 11th Region championship, and they're making a believer out of me, too."
Madison Central may be young, but it is long and athletic and, of course, well-coached.
Cameron Thomas, a promising 6-1 sophomore point guard, had 16 points and seven assists.
"He's going to be a special player," Holland said.
Sam Jones, a husky 6-3 junior, muscled for 13 points and eight rebounds. George, a strong 6-1 inside player, had 11 points and nine rebounds.
Isaiah Johnson, a long-armed 6-2 junior, had six points, seven rebounds and three blocked shots.
While Montgomery County was rated 14th in the state and No. 1 in the 10th Region this pre-season, Madison Central was ranked only seventh best in the 11th Region.
But don't sell Feldhaus' team short. "It's going to be a process," he said. "But by the end of the year, we could be pretty good."
MONTGOMERY CO. 64, MADISON CENTRAL 62
MONTGOMERY COUNTY (3-0) — Wallace 23, Piersawl 13, Cisero 10, Jones 8, Hall 2, Fuller 8.
MADISON CENTRAL (4-1) — Thomas 16, Jones 13, George 11, Johnson 6, Humphrey 5, Alexander 7, Ramsey 4.
Montgomery County 15 13 14 22—64
Madison Central 24 10 13 15—62