Camron Justice has the highest profile on the Knott County Central basketball team for good reason. The 6-foot-3 junior guard already has more than 2,000 career points and already has committed to play at Tennessee.
Justice had 23 points, seven assists and five rebounds as No. 6 Knott Central routed No. 20 Henry Clay 74-44 in the first round of the Republic Bank Holiday Classic in front of a big crowd at Lexington Catholic on Thursday night.
But it was hard not to notice another Knott County junior standout in the blowout.
Evan Hall, a nimble 6-7 low-post player, showed off his all-around game with 22 points, including 10-for-10 shooting from the field, eight rebounds and three assists before hurting his ribs with four minutes left.
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Hall doesn't mind if he's usually overshadowed by Justice. "We're like brothers out there," he said. "Cam's a great player and he's gonna help me out with my game."
Hall, who has scholarship offers from Belmont, Eastern Kentucky and Morehead State, helped Knott Central get through a sluggish start. Justice didn't score until midway through the second quarter, but then pumped in 11 points as the Patriots built a 35-16 halftime lead.
"Once we got going, we were all right," Coach B.B. King said. "Evan and Camron both played well. So did our other guys," including Simon Christon (six points, eight rebounds, seven assists), Keegan Sammons (12 points) and Chance Cornett (five points, seven rebounds, five assists).
Knott Central couldn't have played much better. It shot 71 percent from the field (15 of 21 in each half) and out-rebounded Henry Clay 40-14, and had 23 assists.
"That's Patriot basketball, right there," Hall said. "We work hard at the end of every practice getting up our shots and making them."
Henry Clay Coach Daniel Brown, whose team has also lost to top 10 teams Lafayette, Pleasure Ridge Park and Trinity, tried to double down on Hall, but the strategy didn't work.
"He showed why he's one of best players in the state, not just the (14th) Region," Brown said. "When both of them (Hall and Justice) are playing well, they're hard to beat."
Henry Clay was led by junior Jeremiah Tisdale's 11 points. Senior star Jordan Green sat out the first quarter for disciplinary reasons and never got in the flow. He finished with eight points and five rebounds.
King said "Any time you come here and get a win against a Lexington school it's a good thing. Henry Clay is very talented."
Knott Central got a scare when Hall drove the baseline and was going up for a dunk midway through the fourth quarter and he got tangled up with a Henry Clay player and hit the floor.
He went to the locker room, but was up and about after the game, with ice packed on his bruised ribs.
Hall was upbeat after the Patriots' showing. He thinks the two-time defending region champs can contend for a state title this season.
"This team can go all the way," he said. "We've been to (the Sweet Sixteen) two years in a row so we're comfortable with it."
KNOTT CENTRAL 74, HENRY CLAY 44
KNOTT CENTRAL (8-0) — Justice 23, Hall 22, Sammons 12, Miller 6, Christon 6, Cornett 5.
HENRY CLAY (3-5) — Green 8, Tisdale 11, Barnes 9, Ridgeway 2, Campbell 4, Wilson 5, McCorvey 3, Porter 2.
Knott Central 13 22 21 18—74
Henry Clay 8 8 12 16—44
Republic Bank Classic
What: 21-team boys' basketball tournament
Where: Lexington Catholic
When: Through Monday