LEXINGTON – It’s an often used pun, but it’s also very fitting for Campbell County.
The Camels are finally over the hump. The winless Sweet 16 hump.
After five previous tries at the state tournament, Campbell County earned their first victory at the Sweet 16, knocking off University Heights Academy, 82-65.
“This means a lot. Our school has never done it. You always wondered if this was going to be the team to do it and I thought this team would. This is huge for our school and our community,” Camels coach Aric Russell said.
The balanced attack from the Camels was too much for the Blazers and junior phenom KyKy Tandy. The quartet of Joel Day, Tanner Clos, Reid Jolly and Drew Wilson combined for 75 points in the victory.
“I told the guys in the locker room before the game, everything we’ve done all year, we’ve done together, let’s not change that now. We don’t play hero ball, we don’t have one guy that can just take over. We have to have all five guys on the floor do what they do to be successful. Someone said we have a bunch of role players and that’s fine, we have a bunch of really good role players,” Russell said.
Meanwhile, Tandy showed early and often what he can do under the big lights as the Blazers guard scored 31 points, going 11-of-17 from the field. His effort was stellar, but the rest of the Blazers team struggled, scoring 34 combined points and shooting 14-of-45 from the field.
Tandy hit all four of his shots in the first quarter as UHA took a 22-16 lead after one. The Blazers stayed up six at 26-20, but the Camels took over from there, ending the first half on 13-5 run to take a 33-31 lead into halftime.
After Jolly carried the scoring load in the first half with 13 points, it was Joel Day’s turn in the third, knocking down shot after shot, including about a 25-footer to put the Camels up 42-33. Day fractured his spine just days before the 10th Region tournament, has fought through the pain since and put together four solid games.
“Playing at Rupp Arena the adrenaline was crazy so it helps a lot. I felt fine, I’ll be fine,” Day said.
Day would score 10 points in the third and end with a team-high 23 for the game.
After continuing to build momentum by taking a 61-47 lead into the fourth quarter, the Camels had to withstand numerous charges from Tandy and company as UHA got as close as eight at 67-59 with 4:35 to play, but the steady Camels were able to close the door on the contest from there.
After Day’s 23, Clos had 21, Jolly with 20 and Wilson 11. The Camels had 17 assists on 27 made baskets and went 24-of-34 from the free throw line.
After Tandy’s tournament high so far of 31 points, Malik Lovan and Taquan Hollowell each added 11. Helping preparation for guarding Tandy, the Camels faced Jake Ohmer numerous times prior years.
“It definitely helped. His name came up a lot. We talked about stuff we did against Jake and let’s carry it over against Tandy. A lot of the gameplan we did with Scott last year was part of our gameplan today,” Russell said.
The Blazers season ends at 23-8. They very well could be back at Rupp next season, with only two seniors on the roster.
Campbell County now moves on to face the McCracken County-Oldham County winner in Friday’s quarterfinal at 6:30 p.m. The win improved them to 29-5.
FERN CREEK 69, BOYD COUNTY 67 (OT)
After surrendering a 17-point lead with 4:49 to play in the second quarter, Fern Creek held on in overtime to beat Boyd County, 69-67, in an opening round Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Sweet Sixteen game at Rupp Arena on Thursday.
The Lions cut the lead to 10 by the break on two free throws from Blake Stewart and outscored the Tigers, 17-15, in the third quarter to cut the deficit to eight.
Boyd County got within five at 53-48 with 6:46 remaining in regulation on a putback from Talbott Taylor, and after a free throw from Fern Creek’s Clint Wickliffe, the junior drilled a 3-pointer to make it a one-possession game.
Gunner Short knocked down two free throws to make it a 54-53 Fern Creek lead with 5:08 remaining and the Lions took the lead with under four minutes in regulation when Short put back his own miss while being fouled. Stewart added a free throw to make it a two-point lead 20 seconds later, before Jaden Rogers drew the Tigers even again with a jumper.
Reese Robinson put Boyd County back on top with 1:34 left in regulation by coming up with a steal and finishing a layup on the other end, but an Anthony Wales layup with 1:17 left ended the scoring in regulation with the teams tied. Boyd County had a chance for the last shot, but an offensive foul gave Fern Creek the ball with 16 seconds left. The last-second shot from Wales was off the mark.
Free throws became costly for the Lions in overtime, going 5-of-11 from the line in the added period, while two from Ahmad Price gave Fern Creek a 68-67 lead with 11 seconds left.
Short drove furiously down the court to the basket following the make, but was whistled for an offensive foul. Tony Rogers added a free throw with four seconds left to make it 69-67 and Stewart’s halfcourt heave was off the mark.
Stewart led Boyd County with 22 points, while Short had 15 and Taylor Smith and Taylor had 10 each. The Lions finish the season at 29-7.
Fern Creek was led by Price’s 25 points, while Wales had 13 and Wickliffe had 12 points and 12 rebounds. The Tigers will take on the Covington Catholic, Friday at 8 p.m.
OLDHAM COUNTY 65, MCCRACKEN COUNTY 58
Trailing 42-31 in the third quarter with 53 seconds to play, Oldham County rattled off a 9-0 run to end the quarter and built on that from there.
The Colonels and Mustangs traded baskets throughout the majority of the fourth, but a running floater that banked home by Jackson Gibson gave Oldham County the lead for good at the 3:35 mark.
The Mustangs had their chances down the stretch, but two straight turnovers trailing 58-55 with 1:04 to play did them in during their second trip to Rupp Arena in program history.
Zach Larimore led the Colonels with 20 points, Travis Henderson had 18 and Gibson added 14. They’ll take on Campbell County in Friday’s quarterfinal at 6:30 p.m.
McCracken County was led by Jackson Sivills’ 17 points, Wes Belt added 14 and Cameron Cartwtight tossed in 11.
COVINGTON CATHOLIC 71, APOLLO 47
Covington Catholic was scorching from the field in their win over Apollo.
The Colonels shot 59 percent from the field and 69 percent from three as they advanced to Friday’s quarterfinal against Fern Creek at 8 p.m.
The Eagles were game early, entering the tourney with the worst record at 16-15, but hung tough as they led 17-16 late in the first quarter before the Colonels ended on a 5-0 run. They’d stay within three halfway through the third, but the Colonels closed the half strong, this time on a 7-2 run to take a 35-27 lead into halftime.
Cov Cath started to separate in the third, taking a 46-31 lead, but Apollo would answer and get within nine after a 6-0 spurt. Once again, Cov Cath would close a quarter strong, ending the frame on a 7-0 run to lead 53-37 going into the fourth.
Apollo didn’t have much left from there as the Colonels held the Eagles to two points the first four minutes of the fourth, stretching out to a 61-39 advantage.
The Colonels were led by CJ Fredrick’s 25 points, Aiden Ruthsatz added 18.
Apollo’s season comes to a close with a 16-16 record. The Eagles were led by the trio of Angel Saldana with 11 points while Alex Gray and Hayden Shelton added 10 apiece.