A Look Back at the 5th Region Basketball Tournament
A Look Back at the 5th Region Basketball Tournament
The Fourth Time was a Charm!
As they walked out on the floor of Central Hardin’s gym where the 5th Region Championship was about to be played much had changed for Taylor County. It may had been two seasons ago when the Cardinals had won the first of their two straight Region Titles starting at Green County and then at Nelson County the following season, but this was far from the same team. Head Coach Richard Gatewood, who was the mad scientist who built those two champions was no longer there as was their star guard Quintin Goodin and David Sloan, who had transferred out after Gatewood’s departure. Also, the Cardinals were no longer the favorite to win the Region or even their own District as Adair County had emerged as a fast and talented challenger to overtake them. In fact, the Indians had already beaten the Cardinals three times including in the 20th District Championship. That was the game which put them in the losers bracket of the Region Tournament in which they would most definitely have a tough road to travel, first facing Bardstown and then the winner of LaRue County – North Hardin if they got that far. Still, they did have guard Ezra Oliver a hold over from those championship teams and former John Hardin star now head coach Maze Stallworth. So after sneaking by the Tigers in a mild upset in round one and finally overtaking the Hawks in round two, here they were again facing the team which beat them three times for a fourth shot.
Did I mention that they would not be favored again? So how did they handle the demotion? ” We had a chip on our shoulder. Nobody believed in us!” said Oliver, who had raised his game during the tournament and the last half of the season after senior guard Dylan Gaines was gone with a wrist injury and raise it they did as they once again overcome a early deficit to the Indians in the first quarter trailing 11-2 when they could have easily folded. The Cardinals fought back to close within 31-25 at the half. Still, they trailed most of the game until a strange series of events in the fourth quarter changed everything.
After Cameron Lasley scored to put Adair County up 57-53 with 3:15 left, Oliver was fouled then he made the first free throw and missed the second, but sophomore Grant McQueary fought for the rebound and put it back up and was fouled. Corey Milton shoved a player drawing a technical allowing Taylor County to make an eight point turnaround on the possession and never looked back. From there, the Cardinals made some free throws and forced four turnovers as the Indians went cold rom the floor as Taylor County completed the comeback, 67-66. Kel Stotts, who had a game high 25-points for Adair County watched dejectedly from the sidelines as Oliver and company pulled out black tee shirts that said “3-Peat!” as someone in Campbellsville had enough faith to believe the Cardinals could pull off the incredible.
Once Again, the 5th Region Tournament packs the house!
If anyone who doesn’t believe the Boys Region Basketball Tournament isn’t a big cash cow to whoever hosts it should have been at Central Hardin during the four-day event as all seven games did a fine job of again filling the house. The semi-finals drew a standing room only crowd and the championship game had an electric atmosphere because it was between two district rivals with fan bases which did not particularly like each other in Adair County and Taylor County. Much like Green County and Nelson County (the last two schools who hosted the tournament) getting a ticket was a MUST for a basketball fan.
First Round Flameouts!
Just as surprising as Taylor County’s emergence as a challenger was Bardstown and North Hardin’s first round exits. The Trojans, who played without two of the most dynamic players in the Region in Tony Jackson and Trace Young actually held their own in their game against LaRue County and had a five-point lead late, but shaky shooting allowed the determined Hawks to comeback and overtake North Hardin in a mild upset. Bardstown suffered a similar fate as head coach James Brewer’s team also was unable to hold on to a five point lead late and couldn’t stop Ezra Oliver as the Cardinals pulled off the first of several surprises in the tournament. With two of the favorites gone early, it was anyone’s tournament to win.
First Round Runaways!
While the second day of round one was played close to the vest by all four teams, the first day was hardly that as both winners were involved in a couple of wild contests including one which reached the century mark. John Hardin faced a little resistance against Nelson County, but after a rocky start in the first half, the second half was a different story as the Bulldogs clamped down in a 69-51 win. Adair County was involved in a track race with Caverna and although neither team was unabe to stop the other, the Indians finally won, 100-86.
After last season’s 5th Region Tournament had plenty of star power, this season’s didn’t lack in that department either as different faces stood out. Freshman Mark Goode played well on a bigger stage as the center of LaRue County put up 17 and 12 points against North Hardin and Taylor County pulled down 16 rebounds in the win against the Trojans. Senior Kel Stotts had a big tournament putting up 22, 30 and 25 points against Caverna, John Hardin and Taylor County for Adair County. Senior Trajan Walls was a beast against Taylor County in a losing effort with 18-points and 9-rebounds. Every season there are stars and next year’s crop should be just as good.
A REALLY Big Performance!
You might just argue that Ezra Oliver was just a really good player among a universe of great ones at Taylor County the last three seasons, but the surrounding stars and head coach gone Oliver was asked to step up and step he did. He was the difference against Bardstown putting up 25-points / 6-rebounds, then against a much taller LaRue County team, he piled up 20-points / four rebounds. Against rival Adair County, he was at his best with 18-points in a win.
COMING UP BIG!!!!!
If there was a turning point in the 5th Region Championship game, that may have come with 3:15 remaining in the game with Adair County up 56-53. Oliver was fouled and he made his first free throw, but banked the second. Sophomore Grant McQueary moved in had a putback tying the game at 56-all. On the play, McQueary was fouled by Corey Milton, who was hit with a technical and was gone with five. Taylor County hit all three foul shots, the TreVon Smith hit a jumper on the ensuing possession after the technical and the Cardinals never looked back. Without MaQueary’s put back, none of that would have been possible.