Seems like Scott still has some postseason magic left in the tank.
Trey Meister’s mid-range jumper with 2.6 seconds left sent the Eagles into the 10th Region Semifinals with a 55-53 win over Mason County.
“This was a tough one. This hurts. Hurts bad. I really thought for long stretches of the game we outplayed them. The one negative was our turnovers, we had way too many. A lot of those were self-induced, self-forced,” Royals coach Buddy Biggs said.
The Royals had one last chance to win or tie it, but Leevi Dunaway’s desperation heave from a little past halfcourt hit off the backboard and off the side of the rim as the Royals season came to a close.
In what’s been the case for the majority of the season whether it be injuries, departures, dismissals or suspensions within the starting lineup or off the bench, the Royals were without Jaylen Lofton, still out from suffering a hand injury during the 39th District Championship.
“It was a next man up philosophy. I thought these kids did a great job with that. Those 13 kids perservered, stayed the course,” Biggs said. “They’re champions, won another district championship and I thought tonight was a championship effort in a great environment against the defending regional champs. Five out of the seven guys we played had never played in this environment. I thought their effort was extraordinary and I’m very, very proud of them. Coaching is always difficult, it was a hard year, but these kids perservered and stayed the course.”
Early on, it looked as if the Royals weren’t going to skip a beat without their second leading scorer and leading rebounder in Lofton. The Eagles struggled from the field as they hit just 1-of-16 shots, Mason County taking a 16-6 advantage from it into the second quarter.
“It’s not the easiest place to shoot in,” Eagles coach Steve Fromeyer said. “This is a tough team to beat here.”
Kyren Simspon helped end the poor shooting start to begin the second quarter as he scored the Eagles first five points to get them within seven, but Leevi Dunaway made sure the Royals would take the lead into halftime, scoring six of their 11 points in the frame as they took a 27-22 lead into the break.
Dunaway continued to carry the Royals in the third, scoring 12 of their 15 points, but Scott kept clawing back, eventually taking their first lead of the night on a Nelson Perrin layup to make it 32-31 with 3:30 left in the quarter.
“When we found out Lofton wasn’t playing, I told the boys that means Leevi will pick up those shots. You’re going to tell me you want him taking 30 shots? What if he’s hot and makes 20 of them? Then we go home and we’re on the bus losing. Give or take on that,” Fromeyer said.
The two traded leads twice as Mason County took a 42-41 edge into the fourth.
The Eagles started the final frame with a 6-1 run to take a 47-43 lead. The Royals eventually tied things up at 49 on Xylon Frey’s mid-range with less than three minutes to play. Chad Ohmer and Jeremiah Jones then traded layups to keep things knotted up at 51. A Perrin layup was answered with two Dunaway free throws to square things back up at 53 with 30 seconds remaining.
The Eagles took a timeout, ran the clock down as Mason County sat in a zone and executed the play as Perrin hit Meister, slipping to the elbow and calmly knocking down the jumper.
“It was a play we ran early in the game. We stood around too much against their zone early. We didn’t screen the way we were supposed to and didn’t have the best shot selection,” Fromeyer said. “Meister struggled throughout the game, had a bigger defender on him, but in the end hit the shot that mattered.”
“They struggled with our zone all night long. Their dribble penetration is the key to everything they do. We did a good job of taking that away all night long. I just think you get a stop there and play on and maybe run the break the other way, that was our thought process there,” Biggs said.
After a Royals timeout and 2.6 left on the clock, Dunaway took two dribbles and then let it go, the shot looked on line, but bounced right and out.
“I though the shot was in. It was dead on line. Just a little bit hard, came off the front of the rim,” Royals coach Buddy Biggs said. “I thought our kids did a good job executing there and getting off a decent look. It is what it is, that’s the only thing we could do in 2.5 seconds. It was a hell of a shot, just an inch off.”
Dunaway is part of a four-player senior class that included Dalton Perkins, Malkolm Devine and Braden Jackson. Dunaway exits 10th all-time on the Royals scoring list with 1,421 points.
“That’s saying a mouthful for this place. He had a heck of a career. What I remember the most was his sophomore year when he was a little used sub going into regional finals and he completely turned the game around with his defense and scoring six points. Scored eight points total in a 48-41 game and helped win the game for us. That’s what I remember, had to start down at Rupp and scored double-digits with not having much experience, that’s the fondest memory I’ll have of him,” Biggs said.
All four brought different aspects that will be missed in the future.
“Dalton blocking all the shots and altering all the shots that he did. I don’t know if I’ve ever coached a kid that’s been more of a defensive presence than he has. Malklolm to do what he’s done, last time we played these guys he didn’t even get in the game. For him to stick to it, it’s a great life lesson. Came in every day, worked hard, waited his turn. Braden Jackson is a great kid, he could have whined and pouted and sulked, he didn’t. Came in every day with a smile on his face, he’s just a great human being,” Biggs said.
PARIS 51, PENDLETON COUNTY 50
After losing heartbreakers in last year’s regional tournament and this year’s 10th Region All “A” Finals, Paris found a way Thursday night at The Fieldhouse in the 10th Region Tournament quarterfinals.
Eric Johnson knocked down two clutch buckets in the final minute as the Greyhounds prevailed over Pendleton County, 51-50 in a thriller.
“We had the angels on our side this time,” Greyhounds coach Terence Brooks said. “I thought our kids played hard the whole game.”
In a game that featured five ties and 18 lead changes, it was Johnson hitting the last bucket with under 10 seconds to play to give Paris the victory.
“All my teammates came to me and said it’s you, you got it, just get us there and I told them I had them and they put their trust in me,” Johnson said. “The coaches stayed on me to stay aggressive. I just had to find my comfort zone, just be aggressive and attack.”
The Greyhounds started off with the first four points of the game, prompting a Pendleton timeout 2:15 into the game. The Wildcats settled in from their as they took their first lead of the night after a Dontaie Allen triple to make it 8-6 nearly halfway through the first. The two would then endure four ties and four lead changes the rest of the quarter as the Greyhounds took a 17-15 lead into the second.
Paris led throughout the second until Grant Walsh’s 3-pointer right before the halftime horn gave the Wildcats a 26-25 lead at the break.
The quarter featured Allen scoring his 1,000th point on the season on a free throw attempt at the beginning of the frame.
The game just intensified from there as the two traded bucket for bucket in the third until Paris rattled off a 7-0 run to take a 38-32 lead. Pendleton would close with the final four points to get back within two at 38-36, capped by a Dontaie Allen one-handed dunk to end the frame.
The blow for blow action kept coming. Jalen Byars gave the Hounds a 47-44 lead with less than three minutes to play, but Allen responded with four straight points to give the Wildcats a 48-47 lead with under a minute to go.
Then Johnson let people know he we was 10th Region Co-Player of the Year. A highly contested layup fell with 32 seconds left to put the Hounds back up 49-48.
Jacob Yelton answered on the other end with a layup and a foul but couldn’t convert the layup to make it 50-49 Wildcats with under 20 seconds remaining.
Johnson, calm cool and collectively drove the lane and hit a floater in the lane to give the Hounds the final two of the night.
Allen had a shot out of a timeout as he dribbled the length of the floor, but as defenders were draped all over him, his desperation shot from inside the 3-point line drew the front of the iron and into but who else’s hands…Eric Johnson for the victory as the buzzer sounded.
“It’s a great feeling. The loss last year had an effect on everybody. The loss this year in the All “A” had an effect on everybody. We just tried to fight through that, keep our heads and play through adversity when it came down to it,” Johnson said.
Johnson led Paris with with 16 points, also being the primary defender on Allen on the final play.
“Eric Johnson does a lot on offense, but he does a lot defensively. He was the key there, he made Dontaie catch it a little further than he wanted to catch it and he knew at eight seconds he had to get going. He turned him a few times down the floor, he took a tough shot and fortunately he missed it,” Brooks said.
Following Johnson was Travis Strings with 14 and Byars with 10. Paris moves on to Monday’s semifinal to face Scott at 7:30 p.m.
Pendleton County came in as the third highest scoring team in the state, averaging 75.9 points per game. In the two meetings, Paris held them to 52 points in their first meeting on February 15, and 50 on Thursday night.
“You just have to make them take tough shots. They hit some threes early and you just have to adjust to that,” Brooks said.
Allen led the Wildcats with 25 points as he capped off a stellar junior season with 1,019 points scored. Cody Sullivan added nine while Yelton had eight. The Wildcats will be looking at a major roster rebuild with nine seniors on the team, but do get their centerpiece in Allen back.