Owensboro's grand basketball tradition — 43 Sweet Sixteen appearances (!) and three state titles — has been in need of a little polish over the last couple decades.
Owensboro's current team is ready to burnish the Red Devils' name as they showed in a 71-50 beat-down of Hopkinsville in the quarterfinals of the 98th Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen on Friday afternoon in Rupp Arena.
The victory earned Owensboro its first trip to the semifinals since 1992, but it's aiming for the big prize.
"We're on a mission," Coach Rod Drake said. "We want to be here Sunday afternoon cutting down the nets."
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Aric Holman, the Devils' 6-foot-9 senior, said they've enjoyed themselves so far, "but at end of day it's still a business trip. We're focused on our main goal."
Holman, a stringbean 185-pounder, teamed with 6-7, 290-pound Justin Miller to give Owensboro a two-headed monster on the blocks against Hopkinsville.
Holman had 23 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots. He showed his versatility early by popping a three-pointer and a 16-footer, but he stayed in the paint most of the day and was an intimidating presence.
Miller, who has a soft left-handed touch, had 14 points, 15 rebounds, four assists and two blocks.
Holman said the two of them are "like a dominant force. If one of us gets double-teamed, we know in the back of our mind we can rely on the other one. We're really good picking each other up."
Owensboro also got plenty of firepower from guards Dorian Morrow (15 points, eight rebounds) and Jacoby Harris (11 points, six rebounds, three assists).
The Devils were dead-eye shooters. They hit 59 percent from the field (23 of 39) and 79 percent from the line (22 of 28).
Hopkinsville, on the other hand, couldn't find the basket. It shot 29 percent from the field (21 of 73, including two of 20 threes), and 46 percent from the line (six of 13).
Tigers Coach Tim Haworth said he was "amazed" looking at the stat sheet. "If you'd told me we'd have 73 field goal attempts and they'd have 39 ... and they'd have 19 turnovers and we'd have six, I'd say we won.
"But we got beat by 20."
That's how costly poor shooting can be.
JaQualis Matlock, who capped his career with a fourth consecutive state tournament appearance, led Hopkinsville with 15 points and eight rebounds.
"He's a heck of a ball player," Drake said. "He's a warrior."
Jordan Gary had 10 points but was scoreless in the second half. LeDonald Gray had nine points, three assists and three steals.
Owensboro and Hopkinsville were supposed to play in February, but the game was snowed out. Drake said in preparing for the game, he thought it would be important to get an early lead and see if the Tigers could play catch-up.
As it turned out, they couldn't.
Owensboro never trailed. Hopkinsville rallied to within seven at halftime (32-25), but the Devils pushed the lead back to 13 midway through the third quarter.
Hopkinsville closed to within eight (45-37) late in the quarter, but that was the extent of its comeback. Owensboro's lead never shrank below 11 the rest of the way.
Drake, who starred on Owensboro's 1980 state championship team, said the current seniors have been building toward this since they were freshmen taking their share of lumps.
"They've matured, and this right here today was a culminating event, this was the fruit of their labor.
"I told them from this point on they're making history, making Owensboro proud and putting Owensboro back on the map."