By John Lachmann
MAYSVILLE, Ky. – Campbell County did not earn any style points for its answer to Montgomery County’s fourth-quarter surge, but its subsequent 8-0 run propelled the Camels to their first regional championship in 13 years.
Campbell County claimed its first Region 10 title since 2001 and earned its fourth-ever trip to the state tournament with a 68-61 win over the Indians at Mason County High School on Tuesday.
“I told (our team) before the game there’s going to be a lot of runs by both teams, and we just have to weather it,” Camels coach Aric Russell said. “Every time we weathered it, got back in the game and just kind of took over in the fourth.”
Montgomery County scored 10 straight points early in the final frame, hitting a three, converting a three-point play and laying one in on a fast-break layup, all of which lifted the roof at Mason County High School.
But after the Indians finished their run with a pair of free throws, giving Montgomery County a 50-46 lead, it was a couple of unsexy field goals and four free throws that quieted the crowd and gave the Camels the lead for good.
“That’s huge – you’ve just got to score points in those situations, I don’t care how you get them,” Russell said. “And we did, got back in it and were able to take the lead, and we held it.”
Montgomery County pulled to within one twice, but a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Trent McGovney seemed to complete the momentum shift in the Campbell County’s favor.
The Camels went 6-for-12 from the foul line the final 84 seconds, but their defense held the Indians without a field goal the final 3:26.
Campbell County appeared poised to run away with it early. Senior guard Corey Holbrook knocked down a 3-pointer and sophomore center Matt Wilson hit back-to-back field goals to key a 10-0 run early in the first quarter.
Holbrook would hit two more treys in the quarter, but senior guard Julian Piersawl drained a three from NBA range at the buzzer to cut Montgomery County’s deficit to four, 20-16.
Capitalizing on the energy from the late three, the Indians ran off six straight points to start the second quarter and take the lead.
Montgomery County led by two with three minutes left in the half when Wilson scored from the paint to tie it, and junior guard/forward DeOndre Jackson swished a trey to make it 30-27. The teams traded a pair of scores and the Camels took a three-point lead into the locker room.
Campbell County held the lead by five or less the entire third quarter, which ended with the score 44-40.
Holbrook opened the final stanza with a basket to make it a six-point contest, and the Indians then went on their run.
Sophomore guard Art Walker popped a three, the Indians stole the ball and senior guard Bryan Wallace scored, was fouled and hit his free throw to tie it.
A six-point lead. Gone in 13 seconds.
Another basket and a pair of free throws later, Montgomery County equaled its largest lead of the game at four.
“We knew they were going to make their run, coming down the stretch, and we said we’re going to stay calm, we’re going to come back with another run and hopefully they can’t overcome it,” Holbrook said.
It was the last lead for the Indians, who had a shot blocked by Wilson for a fast-break basket by junior guard Blake Losey.
“Matt Wilson altered so many shots, got so many rebounds, he was the difference, he was huge,” Russell said.
Jackson followed with two free throws. Holbrook drained a pair of foul shots. Wilson connected from inside. Then gave the Camels a four-point lead.
The Indians were not done, as Wallace converted his second three-point play of the quarter to make it 54-53.
Jackson went to the charity stripe for two more points, and Montgomery County answered with a quick bucket.
That’s when McGovney threw in a 3-pointer, which is not the way Russell drew up the play.
“I about died when he shot it, and went it went in I went ‘thank you Jesus,’” Russell said. “But you know what? The kid’s clutch, all the time. I love him. He’s not scared.”
Those were the first points of the night for McGovney and his first three since the regional opener.
“The design was for me to get it in the corner, but you just have to trust your teammates and as soon as he shot that I knew it was going in,” Holbrook said. “He’s got confidence for a sophomore.”
Piersawl drew a foul and made 1 of 2 to trim the lead to three, but Holbrook stuck a dagger in with a penetrating layup and a foul. He made the ensuing free throw to make it 62-56.
Montgomery County hit three foul shots in a row to get back within three, but the Indians had to foul Holbrook four times, and he made five from the charity stripe to seal it.
Holbrook finished with 26 points and three steals.
“Everything he did this whole tournament was unbelievable,” Russell said. “He exemplifies what you want in a senior leader. He does what you want him to do, he’s clutch, he plays defense, he does everything and I’ll tell you what: This is my fourth year with him,
I love him to death and I hate that I’m losing him.”
Jackson fouled out with the game still in doubt, and he had a message for the senior.
“He just came over to me and said ‘take over,’ and that’s what we did going down the stretch,” Holbrook said. “We didn’t do as well as we wanted on the free throws but we made enough to win the game.”
Said Jackson: “Holbrook struggled with confidence all year, and coming into the game I told Holbrook, this is your game. You’re the senior, you’ve got to lead us. That’s what he did tonight. He made big shots, big free throws, he did everything on the court that we asked him to do.”
Holbrook finished the tournament with 56 points.
“I’m so proud of him,” Wilson said. “He had a long, rough journey his senior year and he came out and put it all on the court tonight.”
Wilson also fouled out late, as did junior forward Jake Franzen, leaving Campbell County without three of its key players to close out the win.
“I had faith in our bench players, and they did their job,” Wilson said. “That’s what they’re there for and that’s what they’re supposed to do, and they came in and did it.”
Wilson finished with 12 points, 14 rebounds and eight blocked shots. He ended the regional tournament with 44 points, 39 boards and 12 rejections.
“Wilson is just phenomenal inside,” Holbrook said. “He had huge blocks coming down the stretch.”
Jackson recorded 18 points and hit 7 of 9 free throws, draining his last four foul shots before picking up his fifth personal. Jackson went 13-for-22 from the field in the tournament, scoring 49 points in the three games.
This team’s three regional wins is more than the Camels had in the previous 12 seasons combined. They made the semifinals in 2002 and 2012 but were 1-4 in Region 10 games since 2003 entering March.
“It just feels right because everyone was always doubting us,” Holbrook said. “Even in the district tournament they said Brossart’s too much for Campbell, and then we get in the region we still don’t have any credit. I’m just glad to prove everyone wrong and win a regional championship. It’s the greatest feeling in the world.”
Other than 2001, Campbell County’s other Regional 10 championship, the Camels have also advanced to state in 1946 and 1960.
“It was amazing – I don’t even know what to say right now,” Jackson said. “This is a crazy feeling.”
MONTGOMERY 16-15- 9-21—61
CAMPBELL CO. 20-14-10-24—68
MONTGOMERY COUNTY (29-3): Wallace 5 12 22, Piersawl 8 2 19, Fuller 1 0 2, Hall 1 0 2, Walker 2 0 6, Jones 3 4 10. Totals 20 18 61.
CAMPBELL COUNTY (21-8): Losey 2 0 4, Geiman 2 0 4, McGovney 1 0 3, Wilson 5 2 12, Jackson 5 7 18, L. Franzen 0 1 1, Holbrook 7 9 26. Totals 22 19 68.
3-pointers: CC—Holbrook 3, McGovney, Jackson. MC—Walker 2, Piersawl.