No more flashbacks, no more heartache, no more buzzer-beaters.
Campbell County is headed back to Rupp Arena.
The Camels were able to shake off the demons that haunted them the last two seasons as they knocked off Scott, 68-62 in the 10th Region Championship, Tuesday night at The Fieldhouse.
“This is very rewarding, especially with these kids. A lot of people don’t know that I started with these kids in first grade. I was coaching at Newport at the time, my son was their age and I started with them all the way through. It’s just awesome to see this happen for them and their families,” Camels coach Aric Russell said.
Campbell County got revenge on the Eagles after losing to them at the buzzer last season in the title game. They had lost the prior year at the buzzer as well, when Mason County’s Pig Williams drained a triple at the buzzer to end their season in the first round of the tourney. But the Camels will be making a return trip to Rupp, their third in the last five years.
“Those last second shots that Pig and Jake hit, we were just looking forward to that not happening again and we pulled through,” Camels’ Reid Jolly said.
A heavy dose of Jolly was just too much for the Eagles to handle, as the junior punished them in the paint over and over, scoring a game-high 21 points and pulling down 14 rebounds to go with it.
“They don’t have a post presence much at all and we were looking down at the post a little bit more. We put in a new set for no weak side help and it worked out pretty good,” Jolly said. “Offensive and defensive rebounds were big down the stretch.”
When the Camels needed a basket in crunch time in the fourth, it was most likely coming from Jolly, who scored eight of their final 16 points.
Scott had overcome a double-digit deficit in the first half, their third straight game in the tournament to do so, taking a 46-45 lead into the fourth quarter.
“We just had to get back in control, get our tempo going and basically take care of the ball. When we were taking care of the ball and moving it side-to-side, we were able get some good shots,” Russell said.
But four straight points from Nate Schaefer and Drew Wilson gave the Camels the lead back for good, but it wouldn’t be easy closing out a relentless Scott team.
After building the advantage to as big as nine in the final minute, back-to-back 3-pointers from Nelson Perrin got Scott within four at 66-62, with 18 seconds remaining. A Camels turnover gave the ball right back, but a Perrin travel was whistled and the run ended there as Joel Day knocked down two free throws with 13 seconds left, something he had done all tournament in crunch time to finally seal the deal.
“People didn’t know this, but he has a fractured spine and has been playing with it all week, we just didn’t want anyone to know. He gutted it out, I don’t know how he did it. He got cleared saying play with the pain as much as you can handle. He was in pain the whole time. He’s the toughest kid I’ve ever coached,” Russell said.
Building the double-digit first half lead came after the Camels took a 14-10 lead after one. They opened the second with a 7-2 run to extend out to a 21-14 lead and after Scott scored four straight, it was countered with an 11-3 run to give the Camels a 32-21 lead with a little over three minutes remaining in the half.
The Eagles closed out the half on an 11-2 run from there to get within two at the break.
They’d take their first lead since the first after Nathan Joyce’s layup made it 42-41 Scott with 3:10 left in the third. The two traded mini 4-0 runs from there as the Eagles led 46-45 going into the fourth.
They wouldn’t be denied this time around as they outrebounded the Eagles 33-20 in the contest, while holding Scott to 4-of-14 point shooting from the 3-point line, a night after hitting 9-of-12 3-pointers in their semifinal win over Paris.
The Camels can turn to Jolly’s game tying 3-pointer in the final 30 seconds against George Rogers Clark in the semifinals as the moment that may have defied the tournament. They’d close out the Cardinals in overtime on Monday and fed off that into Tuesday’s final to claim their fourth 10th Region title in school history, becoming just the fifth school in the region to win that many.
“To see the big shot fall for us for once last night was huge. You know that happens, you do this long enough you’re going to have the good times and bad times. We’re really going to savor this one for a while,” Russell said.
After Jolly’s 23 and 14 night, a staple of their tournament has been the balance between Tanner Clos, Joel Day and Drew Wilson, all adding double figures. They had 13, 11 and 11 respectively.
Clos needed eight points coming in for 1,000 in his career and picked a good night to reach the accomplishment.
“I can’t even explain what’s happening. It really feels so good. I’ve got chills going up and down my body right now,” Clos said.
The Camels will now head to the Sweet 16 against first round opponent University Heights Academy. That game will take place Thursday, March 15 at noon.
Scott’s season ends at 23-10, finishing runner-up in the region for the second time in four seasons. The Eagles were led by Nelson Perrin’s 19 points, followed by Trey Meister with 16 and Chad Ohmer with 14.