Calloway County took all the best shots that Knott County Central and its Mr. Basketball could deliver, then knocked out the Patriots 73-68 in double-overtime in a Thursday night thriller in Rupp Arena.
Knott Central star Camron Justice, the newly minted Mr. Basketball, poured in 39 points, including a series of clutch shots down the stretch, before fouling out with 1:03 left in the second OT.
But Calloway County always had an answer, whether it was Connor Wagner's game-tying three with :34 left in regulation, or the Lakers' clutch free-throw shooting in the extra periods.
The victory in the 98th Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen was the first state tournament win in Lakers' history.
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"It's just a joy," Coach Terry Birdsong said. "We bent a lot, but we didn't break.
"Justice was just going to refuse to lose. He kept making shot after shot, but we kept making shots and free throws on our end."
Calloway County star Parker Adams countered Justice with his own big game. The 6-4 senior had 31 points, including 18 of 23 free throws.
As a team the Lakers made 32 of 42 from the line while Knott Central made 12 of 17.
Patriots Coach B.B. King pointed to that discrepancy as the difference in the game.
Knott Central trailed 43-33 early in the fourth quarter before Justice fueled a comeback.
After Austin Combs' layup gave the Patriots a 52-51 lead, Justice pushed the advantage to 54-51 with two free throws with 1:05 left.
Calloway County tied it on Wagner's three from the left wing, but the Patriots had plenty of time to win it. But Chance Cornett was called for an offensive foul after handing off the ball to Justice with :10 left.
Calloway County missed a shot at the buzzer, and the game went to OT.
Justice's layup with :14 left in OT tied it 63-63, and Calloway County missed again at the buzzer.
Knott Central edged ahead 68-65 in the second OT on Isaac Caudill's three from the left corner with 90 seconds left, but that was the Patriots' last score.
Carter Wade's layup pulled Calloway County to within 68-67, and on the ensuing in-bounds play, Justice was whistled for his fifth foul.
The Lakers took a 69-68 lead on Clay Smotherman's free throws, and it was chaos after that. Knott Central kept misfiring after a mad scramble for loose-ball rebounds, and Calloway County wound up sealing it with Smotherman and Adams hitting free throws.
Justice said he never gave up hope.
"I never felt we were out of it. We went down 10, but I didn't feel it was the end. I wanted to fight back and live to see another day.
"Unfortunately, that didn't happen."
Justice ended his career with 3,588 points, third-most in state history. He also broke the state career record for made free throws with 841.
Evan Hall added 10 points and seven rebounds for Knott Central, which fell in the first round for the second year in a row.
"Just a tough game," King said. "Gotta give Calloway credit. The balls just didn't bounce our way.
"These guys gave me a great ride. I'd take them into battle with me any day."
Calloway relied heavily on Adams, but he got good support from his teammates. Wagner had 13 points. Wade had nine, and Hunter Smith scored eight off the bench. Smotherman added seven points, six rebounds and five assists.