By Zack Klemme
Special to Kypost.com
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Wednesday was the day Campbell County ran into its hump again.
The Camels couldn’t hang on to a 12-point first-half lead and lost their Sweet Sixteen opener to Johnson Central, 58-56. That kept them winless all-time at the state tournament.
Campbell County took possession with the score tied at 56 and 1:14 remaining and held for the last shot. But senior guard Corey Holbrook got trapped in the corner in the final 10 seconds and lost the handle, and the Golden Eagles’ Dalton Adkins scored in transition with about six seconds to play.
The Camels called a timeout with 4.6 seconds to go to set up their last-ditch response, but were unable to get a shot off before the buzzer.
Campbell County (21-9) got 18 points from Holbrook in his final high school game. Sophomore center Matt Wilson pitched in 16 points and 21 rebounds, and Deondre Jackson added 16 points.
Johnson Central (26-6) got 22 points from Kyle Gullett and 15 from Truman Salyer.
The Camels were able to limit Marshall signee and Mr. Basketball finalist Shane Hall to nine points and five rebounds, though the 6-foot-9 senior did affect the game with five blocked shots.
"We just wanted to play real physical with (Hall)," Campbell County coach Aric Russell said. "Matt did a great job. We knew where (Hall) liked to get the ball; we were trying to push him off that spot, and we were bringing Corey over to help and try to get the ball out of his hands. We were also trying to take his spin move away, and we actually did a pretty good job with him at times."
The Camels were not so successful in limiting Gullett, who at 6-foot-6 provided a matchup problem for Campbell County.
"We play a small lineup besides Matt, and DeOndre had a hard task trying to guard (Gullett)," Russell said. "We haven’t played with a true 4-man all year long, and they exposed it."
Despite all that, the Camels put themselves into position to get the last shot, but Johnson Central made a defensive play to take the ball and the season from Campbell County.
"When I caught the ball, I turned around and there were three people coming at me, and I tried to spin," Holbrook said. "And as soon as I spun, a guy tipped it out of my hands and it just went downhill from there."
Said Russell: "I felt like one of those two (Holbrook or Jackson) was gonna get something going to the basket or get fouled, and the kid just made a nice defensive play."
That kid was the Golden Eagles’ Braxton Blair, who fed Adkins in transition for the game-winner.
"We give Braxton a hard time about not playing much defense and stuff, so for him to make that steal, everybody was just kind of in shock, honestly," Adkins said. "But we’re proud of him, and he just made a good outlet pass to me."
The victory was Johnson Central’s second ever at the state tournament and first since 2000. The three-time defending Region 15 champions advance to face Scott County in Friday's state quarterfinals.
The Golden Eagles trailed by 12 points midway through the second quarter, but got their deficit down to five points by intermission and hung around long enough to steal it – literally – late.
"We didn’t play our best game," Johnson Central coach Tommy McKenzie said, "but I thought we did a really good job making plays throughout the game to keep ourselves in it and give us a chance to win at the end."
JOHNSON CENTRAL 11-15-20-12—58
CAMPBELL COUNTY 14-17-13-12—56
JOHNSON CENTRAL (26-6): Gullett 9 2 22, Hall 4 1 9, Adkins 2 0 4, Blair 2 1 5, McPeek 0 1 1, McKenzie 0 0 0, Salyer 4 4 15, Rice 1 0 2. Totals 22 9 58.
CAMPBELL COUNTY (21-9): Jackson 7 0 16, Wilson 6 4 16, Losey 2 0 4, McGovney 0 0 0, Holbrook 5 6 18, Geiman 0 0 0, L. Franzen 1 0 2, J. Franzen 0 0 0. Totals 21 10 56.
3-pointers: JC—Salyer 3, Gullett 2. CC—Jackson 2, Holbrook 2.