Andre Flynn remembers when he played for Woodford County 30 years ago that Henry Clay was always a beast in basketball.
Flynn, now the coach at Fayette County High School in Georgia, relayed those memories to his team before it took on Henry Clay in Tuesday's quarterfinals of the Republic Bank Holiday Classic at Lexington Catholic.
"I told them about Henry Clay's tradition, about how they always had good players and good coaching, and that it'd be a tough game."
Sure enough, the Blue Devils pushed Fayette County to the wire before the No. 2-rated Class 4A team in Georgia prevailed 72-67.
Fayette County looked unbeatable in an 83-45 destruction of No. 6 Warren Central on Monday. But only a few missed free throws and a late turnover cost Henry Clay a shot at an upset.
"We could've won," Devils Coach Daniel Brown said. "But we'll take a lot of positives away from this.
"We played at a high energy level against a very good team that is well-coached, very athletic and that has a great guard."
The great guard Brown referred to is Fayette County's Adam Smith, a 6-foot senior who will play college ball at UNC-Wilmington.
Smith and senior guard Maurice Williams made the big plays at crunch time that rescued the Tigers.
"Smith's a big-time player, a leader," Flynn said. "And Williams does everything for us. He's our glue."
Smith finished with 26 points and eight rebounds. Williams had 18 points, including four free throws in the last 33 seconds.
Henry Clay trailed 57-52 with five minutes left, but rallied to within 65-63 behind Daniel Kiesling and Kendrick Prewitt.
The Devils had a chance to tie it with 38 seconds left, but Prewitt missed a pair of free throws.
Henry Clay still had life, though, when Fayette County, leading 69-67, made a turnover. But Henry Clay returned the favor seconds later with a turnover of its own, and the Tigers wrapped it up at the foul line.
Kiesling led the Devils with 25 points and nine rebounds.
"That kid was tough and really caused us some problems," Flynn said of Henry Clay's 6-6 senior. "And so was No. 4 (junior point guard Wes Kimball.) He put us in a bind."
Kimball had 10 assists to go with seven points.
Prewitt had 13 points and Jordan Green had 10.
Kiesling said the Devils will learn from the loss.
"We know we can compete at a high level against a very good team. We just have to do better in late-game situations. We've gotta have poise and hit free throws," he said.
FAYETTE COUNTY (Ga.) (12-1) — Smith 26, Williams 18, Lauderdale 10, Erves 10, Anachebe 5, Clarke 2, Thompson 1.
HENRY CLAY (8-3) — Kiesling 25, Prewitt 13, Green 10, Kimball 7, Nichols 4, Stewart 4, Grundy 4.
Fayette County 17 13 21 21—72
Henry Clay 12 18 18 19—67