High School Basketball

Yellowjackets keep the faith

Virtually nobody believed Central could give Eastern a game in Friday's quarterfinals of the National City Boys' Sweet Sixteen.

Nobody but the Yellowjackets and some hopeful fans.

Eastern had paddled Central 78-55 on Feb. 10.

But this is March and, after 32 minutes of play Friday, Central left the Rupp Arena floor with a 71-65 victory. So the Yellowjackets, after an 0-8 start to the season, are in the state semifinals for the seventh time. They play West Jessamine at 10 a.m. Saturday.

Alex Morrison drained five of his eight three-point attempts, finishing with 21 points, three rebounds and four assists for Central (18-14). University of Kentucky football recruit Ridge Wilson was a beast in the paint, notching 16 points and 13 rebounds. Junior Tim Patterson, the middle linebacker on Central's back-to-back 3A state football champions, added 12 points and seven boards.

Wilson, a 6-foot-4 senior, was the minister to Central's believers.

"I don't care if we're playing the Lakers, I feel like we're going to win," Wilson said. "That's my competitive nature."

Even when Eastern took a nine-point lead, 58-49, with 61/2 minutes left, the Yellowjackets kept the faith.

"I just kept telling my teammates to keep believing, keep pushing and eventually it's going to have a good outcome," Wilson said. "I was looking at my players' eyes and was like, 'We're gonna win; we're gonna do what it takes to win.' And we got the job done."

Chris Dowe led Eastern (31-3) with 14 points. Lyonell Gaines had 13 points and eight rebounds. Jon Davis came off the bench to add 12 points. Delquan Thomas had 10 points and four assists.

The Eagles shot 25-for-60 (41.7 percent). Central was 25-for-47 (53.2 percent).

Central Coach Doug Bibby said he's "always trying to perfect our man-to-man defense." So when the teams met in February, "I forced us to play man-to-man pretty much the entire time." The payoff came Friday. Bibby augmented man-to-man with triangle-and-two, box-and-one and a matchup zone.

"That was my first time going against that," said Dowe, a 6-3 senior, of the triangle-and-two, "so I didn't know what to do at first. Then I thought I was able to get open a couple times and hit a couple threes, get into a rhythm." But the adjustment took a physical toll, and Central kept switching looks.

Eagles Coach Jason Couch agreed with Bibby that Central's defense was a key. And Couch has seen enough Sweet Sixteens to know that it's possible for "just a lot of funny things to happen."

"There were about three or four hustle plays that both teams were just busting their tails," Couch said. "It seemed like the ball just trickled right to them and they got an easy bucket out of it."

Thomas drove the lane and dropped in the basket that gave Eastern its 58-49 lead.

But the Eagles missed six of their next seven shots and committed four turnovers as Central went on a 14-2 run.

After a Wilson free throw, Morrison hit a three-pointer and a driving two-pointer.

Dawan Robinson, who would finish with nine points, scored the next six in a row — four from the free-throw line, plus an acrobatic drive to the hoop after losing a defender with a perimeter pump-fake. Desmond Brown, who also finished with nine points, sank two free throws with 2:58 left to give Central a 63-60 lead.

"We kind of preach 'time and score.' A lot of your decisions are based on the time and score," Couch said. "I thought that we didn't make very good decisions for that stretch. We were still playing hard, were trying to make plays, but we just didn't make the best 'time-and-score' decisions."

Still, the game was tied at 63 after a Thomas trey with 1:58 left.

But Patterson's put-back with 1:36 to play put Central ahead to stay, 65-63.

Thomas hit one free throw with 40 seconds left to make it a one-point game.

Patterson countered with a free throw at :38.8. When he missed the second try, Wilson deflected the ball off of an Eagle and out of bounds, giving Central possession. Robinson added two free throws at :36.4 for a 67-64 lead.

The killer came seconds later, when a Dowe miss led to a Central runout, and Morrison stuck back his own miss. The upset was on.

How did you do it, Bibby was asked.

His reply: "My guys did."

Eastern (65)

NAME mi fg-a 3-pt ft-a rb a pf tp

Dowe 30 5-15 3-7 1-2 3 1 3 14

Abell 25 2-7 0-4 3-5 6 1 1 7

Sanford 7 1-2 0-1 0-0 2 0 0 2

Gaines 27 4-11 2-5 3-4 8 3 2 13

Millner 7 1-2 0-0 1-1 1 0 4 3

Thomas 27 4-11 1-1 1-2 3 4 4 10

Davis 25 6-7 0-0 0-0 5 1 3 12

Marks 12 2-5 0-2 0-0 2 0 3 4

Team 2

Totals 160 25-60 6-20 9-14 32 10 20 65

Central (71)

NAME mi fg-a 3-pt ft-a rb a pf tp

Morrison 32 8-14 5-8 0-0 5 4 1 21

Jones 10 2-3 0-0 0-0 0 1 0 4

Brown 22 3-3 1-1 2-2 1 0 2 9

Robinson 32 2-7 0-1 5-8 3 8 1 9

Wilson 31 6-11 0-0 4-6 13 1 3 16

Patterson 26 4-7 0-0 4-9 7 1 4 12

Williams 6 0-2 0-1 0-0 0 0 2 0

Rudolph 1 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 1 0

Team 0

Totals 160 25-47 6-11 15-25 29 15 14 71

Eastern 12 15 27 11—65

Central 12 18 18 23—71

Field-goal shooting: Eastern 41.7, Central 53.2. Free-throw shooting: Eastern 64.3, Central 60.0. Technicals: None. Turnovers: Eastern 11 (Thomas 5, Marks 2, Abell 1, Sanford 1, Gaines 1, Millner 1), Central 12 (Wilson 4, Morrison 3, Brown 2, Robinson 1, Rudolph 1, team 1). Blocked shots: Eastern 2 (Gaines 2), Central 1 (Wilson 1). Steals: Eastern 5 (Dowe 1, Abell 1, Sanford 1, Gaines 1, Thomas 1), Central 5 (Brown 2, Wilson 2, Morrison 1). Officials: Bart Lenox, Troy Winders, Tony Gray. Attendance: 15,061.Records: Eastern 31-3, Central 18-14.

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