Zack Davis remembers Knott County Central's trip to the PNC/KHSAA Boys' State Basketball Tournament in 2010.
The Patriots got bounced by Butler by 11 points in the first round.
Thursday, Knott Central passed its opening test with flying colors, disposing of Boone County 71-54 before a Rupp Arena crowd of 13,101.
"It was great to come here and play, get that experience. But when we lost, I still felt like there was something missing. It wasn't good enough," said Davis, who was a sophomore on the 2010 team. "I knew coming in today some of the freshmen would probably be nervous; they'd be timid. I was going to have to come out and play my game and get us going as a senior leader, and that's what I tried to do."
He hit three three-pointers and scored 11 points in the first quarter alone.
While Boone County was missing its first 10 shots, Knott was bolting to a 9-1 lead. Boone never recovered.
"These guys, they're a good bunch of kids, and I expect this out of them," Coach B.B. King said after the Patriots' first state tournament win since 1993. "And they played together."
The winners shot lights out, draining 23 of 35 shots (65.7 percent). In the second half, they fired in 13 of 16 (81.3 percent).
Davis and freshman Simon Christon finished with 19 points each. Fellow freshmen Evan Hall and Camron Justice added 12 and 11 points, respectively. Hall also grabbed eight rebounds, and Davis had six. Seth Adams, a senior, had eight points and seven rebounds.
The Patriots (29-5) advanced to Friday's quarterfinals against Oldham County.
Boone (27-8) never did find its groove on offense. The Rebels shot 21-for-59 (35.6 percent) and were outscored 19-7 at the free-throw line.
"We just didn't defend well, got in foul trouble, and they took advantage of it," Coach Greg McQueary said. "They shot the ball well. It's just one of those things where we got ourselves in a little bit too big of a hole we couldn't dig out of. Give Knott County Central credit — they took advantage of it. They made plays, they shot the ball well, and they're advancing."
Zane McQueary, son of the coach, paced the Rebels with 18 points and six rebounds. Jakeith Pitts added 13 points.
Knott led 19-8 through one quarter and was up 28-14 early in the second.
Boone trimmed the deficit to four and was within five at 32-27 at intermission.
Justice was the Patriots' lone starter not to score in the half.
"I got a little frustrated the first half," he said. "I figured I couldn't do any worse the second half, so I came out and played my game, and we just got a 'W,' and that's all I'm proud of."
Keenan Palmer's put-back to open the second half brought Boone to within three.
The Rebels were still within eight until Justice made a three-pointer with three seconds left in the third quarter.
Knott got the ball to open the fourth quarter, and Justice was fouled on a three-point attempt. He made all three free throws.
After a Boone County miss, Hall's fast-break basket bumped Knott's lead to 54-38. The Patriots later led by as many as 20.
"The first half, we got back to four; we thought the momentum was going back to our way," Greg McQueary said. "They answered every time. They were the better team."