Gilbert's shot lifts Mason County in OT

Jordan Gilbert channeled past Mason County stars Chris Lofton and Darius Miller and played hero in the state tournament Thursday night.

Gilbert, a 5-foot-10 junior, hit a driving layup with three seconds left in overtime to give the Royals a 58-56 victory over North Hardin in the the PNC/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen in Rupp Arena.

Gilbert missed a similar shot at the end of regulation, but that didn't bother him.

"I knew we could still come out in overtime and change the game," he said. "I'm just glad coach had confidence enough to bring it back to me at the end of overtime."

Mason County Coach Chris O'Hearn didn't hesitate to call Gilbert's number in the huddle with 23 seconds left.

"We have all the confidence in the world in Jordan," he said. "He loves that running scoop shot on the (right) side there. He's really good at making it."

Gilbert finished with 12 points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists.

Bradley Lang also had 12 points for the Royals, and Justin Lang added 10 points.

Rheuben Bluford was a force inside with nine points, 14 rebounds and three blocks. Neal Pawsat came off the bench to get four points and seven rebounds, including a huge grab in overtime that set up a three-point play by Bluford.

Gilbert and his backcourt sidekick Justin Lang sparkled in Mason County's upset of Clark County in the 10th Region finals, so North Hardin Coach Ron Bevars was forewarned.

"Their guards are very good," he said. "They beat a Clark County team I thought had a chance to win the state championship."

The Royals raced to an early 17-5 lead on North Hardin, and the Trojans spent the rest of the night playing catch-up.

They pulled to within 41-40 early in the fourth quarter, thanks to Nigel Phelps and James Berry.

"We just had trouble guarding a couple of their people," O'Hearn said.

After Mason County pulled out to a 47-40 lead, North Hardin rallied again. This time the 5th Region champs caught up and took a 49-47 lead inside the last two minutes.

Gilbert tied it with a contested layup with 1:30 left.

North Hardin's Jermaine Ruttley missed a driving layup with 20 seconds remaining. After a mad scramble for the rebound, Berry got the ball near midcourt and attacked the basket, but was called for walking with 8.6 seconds left.

Gilbert drove the lane, but couldn't get the shot to fall.

Given a second chance in OT, he made it count.

O'Hearn said he has "high character kids who know how to win. They do the little things at crunch time."

Gilbert crunched North Hardin's hopes of winning a Sweet Sixteen game for the first time since 2002.

"He just beat us to the basket," Bevars said. "I think fatigue set in. We just didn't do a good job helping."

North Hardin's big bodies wore on Mason County, too.

Berry had 20 points and 10 rebounds. Phelps had 15 points, and Ruttley had nine points, four rebounds and four assists.

Bevars saluted his team's effort in Rupp Arena, and their determination throughout the season after teammate Cameron Irvin died last summer in a bicycle accident.

"If somebody had told me we'd be sitting here after we lost him, I'd have said 'no way,'" Bevars said.

"I'm proud of these guys. I thought it was a tremendous effort on their part all year."