NEW CASTLE, Ky.
Point guard Jonathan Blair scored only six points, but his hustle on his own missed free throw provided a perfect ending to South Oldham’s 50-47 overtime victory over Simon Kenton for the Eighth Region basketball championship Tuesday night at Henry County High School.
South Oldham led 48-45 after Blair sank two free throws and Drew Bullock another in the final minute. Simon Kenton cut its deficit to 48-47 on Taylor Morrison’s driving layup at 0:05.5, and Blair was fouled one second later.
He missed the first shot of the one-and-one, but he quickly ran down the ball under the goal and scored the clinching basket. The Dragons (22-4) earned their second straight regional title and a return trip to the Sweet 16 in Lexington’s Rupp Arena. They’ll play Second Region champion Hopkinsville, which defeated Henderson County 64-47 Tuesday night, in the opening game at noon March 19.
“I pride myself on making free throws, but I knew my shot was off,” Blair said. “I did the same thing earlier in the tournament. I missed a free throw, then got the rebound and scored, so I knew I could do it again.”
“Jonathan is such a competitor,” coach Steven Simpson said. “He wanted to win. He’s our floor leader.”
Drew Greenwood led South Oldham with 16 points and Kyle Young tallied 12. After Blair’s final basket, the South Oldham fans swarmed the floor.
Asked if winning the regional this season was as sweet as the school’s first one in 2013, Simpson said, “I don’t think that winning a regional ever gets old.”
The Dragons broke a 34-34 tie with a seven-point run highlighted by Greenwood’s 3-point shot to open the fourth quarter. But with South Oldham up 41-34, Young picked up two quick fouls trying to steal the ball and went to the bench.
The Pioneers capitalized with a 9-0 spurt capped by Morrison’s 3-point shot for a 43-41 lead with 3:00 left in regulation. Young returned to the game and made a steal and layup in the waning seconds for a 43-all tie, and Simon Kenton missed a desperation shot at the buzzer.
“Kyle is such an intense competitor on defense, but we trust him to make good decisions,” Simpson said. “Sometimes he gets a steal out of it. I felt good going into overtime because I know the heart of these kids.”
Simon Kenton (15-14) took a 45-43 lead on Matt Mullins’ goal, but Young scored off another steal to ignite a 5-0 run. The Pioneers called a timeout with 1:03 left, but once play resumed, Greenwood intercepted a pass.
“Somebody called a switch on defense and I jumped at it and got the ball,” said Greenwood, who hit two 3-pointers in the game. “It got a little scary when Young went out with four fouls. We weren’t playing well on offense, and they were playing good defense.”
It’s the third time Simon Kenton has been the Eighth Region runner-up since moving from the Ninth Region before the 2005-06 season. The Pioneers also placed second in 2006 and 2007.
“We’ll keep on working,” coach Trent Steiner said. “They got a couple of offensive rebounds late in the game that hurt us, and we made a couple of turnovers, too. Basketball is a game of runs.”
– Morrison 15, Kuntz 6, Pracht 11 , Mullins 4, Robinson 5 , Childers 6 .Simon Kenton
– Greenwood 16, Young 12, Griffin 6, Blair 6, Bullock 1, Horsey 5, Felds 2. McWilliams 2.South Oldham
– Kuntz 2, Childers 2, Morrison; Greenwood 2.3-point goals