By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
With the final seconds ticking off the clock, Kirk Humphrey was just trying to get a good look at the basket.
He didn’t really plan on pulling up for a would-be, game-winning three-pointer.
But, when his defender backed off of him, the Madison Central junior guard decided to shoot.
“He was giving me a little bit of room,” Humphrey said of Holmes’ Quinton Chames. “Time was winding down and I knew I had to get off a shot. I’m just thankful it went it.”
Humphrey’s 30-foot shot at the buzzer found nothing but net and gave the Indians (17-7) a thrilling 81-80 win over Holmes (19-4) Saturday in Richmond.
Humphrey finished with a team-best 21 points and three other players reached double figures as Central picked up a hard-fought victory over a team that is ranked in the Top 10 in most state-wide polls.
“We led the whole game. Played a heck of game,” Central coach Allen Feldhaus said. “Only had six turnovers. Then, they get on a run and get us down by four and we could have easily folded our tents. But, we kept fighting. That’s what I like most about it.”
The Indians jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the opening minutes and did not trail through the first 30 minutes of the game.
Holmes finally pulled even when standout guard James Bolden hit a three-pointer with 1:14 left in the fourth quarter.
Bolden finished with 36 points, eight rebounds and three assists. He scored 20 points in the first half.
“For the most part, we made him work for those shots,” Feldhaus said of Bolden. “He got 36 points, but it took him 25 shots to get it.”
Holmes scored on two-straight possessions to take a 78-74 lead with less than a minute left.
Cameron Thomas scored on a nice drive and after Armani Housely hit one-of-two free throws, Isaiah Johnson hit a pair of free throws to get the Indians with a point (79-78) with 7.1 seconds left.
Markel McClendon went to the line with 5.8 seconds left for Holmes and hit the first attempt, but missed the second shot.
The Indians got the rebound and put the ball in Humphrey’s hands.
“In that situation, we don’t like calling a timeout,” Feldhaus said. “We don’t want them to able to set up their defense. So, you just take what you can get.”
The game-winner was the highlight of an all-around strong performance by Humphrey. The junior was eight-of-16 from the field, two-of-five from three-point range, three-of-three from the line and had four rebounds and two assists.
Humphrey also got into the lane on numerous occasions and finished on a couple of athletic moves.
“Lately, my shots haven’t been falling,” Humphrey said. “So, I’m trying to change it up and get to the rim and try get to the free throw line if I can.”
The Indians shot 46 percent for the game, but they wouldn’t have been able to pull off the upset without a strong performance at the free throw line.
Central, which entered the game shooting 59 percent from the line as a team, connected on 24-of-26 attempts.
“That gets us above 60 percent for the year,” Feldhaus said. “You’ve got to hit those and we’ve been working on it. We’ve been charting free throws at the end of the practice every day.”
Johnson finished with 17 points, Sam Jones had 15 points and seven rebounds, Thomas had 14 points, Coty Alexander had eight points and Demarcus George had six points for Central.
After several near-upsets against ranked teams earlier this season — Montgomery County, Trinity — this victory was an important confidence booster for a team that starts three juniors and a sophomore.
“It wouldn’t have been good enough just to hang around,” Feldhaus said. “We need to win (a game against a top-ranked team). It’s one of those eye-openers when people open up the paper tomorrow and see that we beat Holmes.”
Central is set to return to action at 2:30 p.m. today against Perry County Central (17-5) at the Joe B. Hall Prep Classic in Mt. Sterling.