By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
The Indians haven’t followed an easy path to the school’s first-ever Sweet 16 championship game.
In the past three weeks, they’ve played in seven elimination games — and in three of those games they’ve face significant second-half deficits.
Still, each time the Indians have come up with big plays at the biggest times.
“All we have to do is answer the call,” Central senior Quan Taylor said Saturday at Rupp Arena. “That’s our team motto.”
The Indians needed a tremendous comeback just to get to Rupp Arena.
Against Henry Clay in the 11th Region semifinals, Madison Central trailed 56-52 with 1:36 left in the fourth quarter.
The Indians rallied to win that game, 60-56.
After an easy win in the opening game of the Sweet 16 Wednesday over Wayne County, Central needed to rally to beat Holmes in the quarterfinals and Hopkinsville in Saturday’s semifinals.
Holmes had a seven-point lead twice in the first half Friday, but the Indians won in overtime, 65-61.
Hopkinsville looked to be pulling away in second half of the semifinals before Central stormed back. The Tigers were up by 12 points with 1:25 left in the third quarter, still the Indians pulled out a 60-56 victory in front of a crowd of more than 20,000 fans at Rupp Arena.
“Our philosophy at Madison Central is based around toughness,” Central coach Allen Feldhaus said. “We want our bunch to be tough. It’s just special because this group that I have they haven’t been fed with a silver spoon. They’re whole life they have had to work for everything and in these games, they’ve had to work for everything.”
Late comebacks are nothing new for this senior-dominated team.
In December, Central pulled off two remarkable rallies that led to victories at the King of the Bluegrass. The Indians trailed by four points with 11 seconds left, but topped St. Xavier in overtime, 79-76.
One day later, Central was down by 14 points at halftime and trailed by five points with 27 seconds left against Fairdale, but managed to rally for a 87-85 overtime victory.
“We all just have to have heart,” Taylor said.
Taylor bounces back
Central senior forward Quan Taylor wasn’t much of a factor in the Indians’ quarterfinal win over Holmes Friday at Rupp Arena.
He did not score and played only 20 minutes before fouling out.
The senior bounced back with a solid performance in Saturday’s semifinal win over Hopkinsville.
Taylor had eight points (on two-of-three shooting), five rebounds and was four-of-four at the free throw line.
“I didn’t get any calls go my way,” Taylor said of the win over Holmes. “So, I just had to redeem myself and not even worry about that game. (Friday) was an eye-opener for me. I just showed I needed to played harder and work harder.”
Taylor once again got into foul trouble, but still played 25 minutes — the third-most on the team.
Free throws make a difference
The Indians made the most of their opportunities at the free throw line on Saturday against Hopkinsville.
Central made 29-of-33 free throws, including a stretch of 20 straight. Hawkins was 17-of-20, while Ken-Jah Bosley was seven-of-seven.
In the past two games, the Indians have hit 50-of-61 free-throw attempts.