His team in the Sweet 16 for the first time, South Oldham High School boys’ basketball coach Steven Simpson was concerned about the pressure of the big stage and a more athletic opponent on Wednesday.
“I thought both of those got us a little bit at the beginning,” he said.
Hopkinsville put together a 21-1 run in the first half and went on to defeat South Oldham 74-52 in the first round in front of 12,999 fans in Rupp Arena.
The Dragons (24-8) shot just 29.2 percent (19 of 65) and were outscored 40-24 in the paint by the bigger and faster Tigers.
“There’s a big difference in athleticism of the Eighth Region and other parts of the state,” Simpson said. “(Hopkinsville) is very athletic and very well-coached.”
The Tigers (32-4), No. 11 in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings, ran their state-best winning streak to 24. They will face Graves County (27-8) in Friday’s 1:30 p.m. quarterfinal in a rematch of a Jan. 17 game the Tigers won 81-59.
Senior Jordan Majors scored a game-high 20 points, and 6-foot-4 sophomore JaQualis Matlock added 18 points, 17 rebounds and four assists for the winners. Matlock had a size advantage over a South Oldham team whose tallest starter was 6-1.
“I kind of felt like a giant,” said Matlock, who hit 9 of 12 shots.
Hopkinsville jumped out to an 8-1 lead, saw South Oldham pull within 8-7 and then took control. Demarius Henry’s 3-pointer made it 11-7 with 2:23 left in the first quarter, and Majors’ two free throws capped the 21-1 run that made it 29-8 with 4:01 left in the second quarter.
The Dragons never got closer than 18 again.
“I thought we got after it defensively in the full court and the half court,” Tigers coach Tim Haworth said. “We shared the ball really well on offense.”
Haworth’s squad lost to Pulaski Southwestern 52-41 in the first round of last year’s Sweet 16, but the Tigers beefed up their schedule this season, including a trip to Louisville for the King of the Bluegrass Holiday Classic.
“We said we were going to get back to Rupp Arena and show Lexington and everybody else that we came here to play and not be timid and take it to people,” Haworth said. “Win or lose, as long as we do that, I can be pleased as a basketball coach.”
Matthew Haysley had 14 points and five rebounds to lead South Oldham. Shae Goodlett and Devonte Jones added seven points each.
While disappointed with the loss, Goodlett said reaching the Sweet 16 was a dream come true.
“This trip up here and getting to play in historical Rupp Arena, I’ll be able to tell my kids and grandkids about that forever,” he said. “That’s something I’ll hold with me the rest of my life.”
|SOUTH OLDHAM 52|
Halftime — Hopkinsville 37-15.
3-point goals — South Oldham 6-28 (Goodlett 0-1, Young 0-4, Mi. Haysley 0-1, Ma. Haysley 3-8, Catinna 0-3, Griffin 2-4, Jones 0-1, Bullock 0-2, Greenwood 0-1, Sherry 1-3); Hopkinsville 6-14 (Edwards 1-2, Elam 1-3, Majors 3-4, Henry 1-4, Dossett 0-1).
Shooting percentage — South Oldham 29.2; Hopkinsville 64.4.
Steals — South Oldham 10 (Goodlett 1, Young 2, Mi. Haysley 1, Ma. Haysley 3, Catinna 2, Greenwood 1); Hopkinsville 5 (Matlock 2, Edwards 1, Majors 2).
Blocked shots –South Oldham 0; Hopkinsville 8 (Davis 1, Matlock 2, Edwards 1, Elam 1, Majors 2, Cager 1).
Attendance — 12,999.