By Nathan Hutchinson
Register Sports Editor
MADISON COUNTY —
At times this season, Henry Clay has looked like one of the elite teams in the 11th Region and a legitimate state championship contender.
At other times, the Blue Devils (23-9) have been less than impressive.
“They have been inconsistent,” Madison Central coach Allen Feldhaus said. “They beat (defending state champ) Trinity, then lost to Scott County by a bunch. But, that’s the scary thing. When they want to play they are as good as anybody. If you can beat Trinity, then you can play.”
That combination of talent and unpredictability certainly makes the Blue Devils a scary matchup for Madison Central in the semifinals of the 11th Region Tournament.
Henry Clay will take on the Indians at 8:15 p.m. today at McBrayer Arena. The winner advances to Saturday night’s championship game to face either Lexington Catholic or Scott County.
Central (26-5) and Henry Clay played once during the regular season. The Indians picked up a 78-63 victory on Jan. 29 in Richmond.
Central senior Quan Taylor turned in a dominant performance in the win over the Blue Devils. He finished with 14 points, 24 rebounds and four blocks.
Senior point guard Dominique Hawkins had 26 points and 10 rebounds and senior guard Ken-Jah Bosley had 20 points for the Indians.
Heading into the fourth quarter, Central had just a 48-45 lead against the Blue Devils.
Hawkins led the charge as the Indians pulled away in the fourth. The senior had 10 points in the final period. Central put together an 8-0 run and Taylor pushed the lead to 11 points with back-to-back baskets later in the fourth.
Central shot 59 percent from the field in the second half.
“Once we got them down, they had to come out and try to guard us,” Feldhaus said. “That’s when our guards got to work on them. It was close the whole game until we pulled away. I expect (tonight) will be the same. It will probably go right down to the wire.”
The Blue Devils started the season by winning 12 of their first 13 games, including a win over last year’s state champion Trinity, but they have been a up and down in the past two months.
Henry Clay is just 8-7 since Jan. 27, including losses to Lafayette (twice, once by 25 points), Christian Brothers (Mo.), Bryan Station and Dunbar.
They rolled past Sayre in the 42nd District Tournament semifinals, but lost to Scott County, 83-64, in the championship game.
Henry Clay needed double-overtime to get past Dunbar, 63-55, Tuesday in the opening round of the 11th Region Tournament.
“I think it was a total different style of game then what we are going to see (tonight),” Feldhaus said of Henry Clay’s double OT win. “It was low scoring. Both teams were really patient. That’s not how we play. Truthfully, I hadn’t seen Henry Clay play like that. That was the most conservative I’ve seen them play.”
The Blue Devils have three players averaging double-figures in scoring this season — and all three are juniors. Jordan Green (guard) is averaging 15.3 points and 5.9 rebounds a game. Christen Cunningham (guard) is averaging 12.1 points a game and Trey Grundy (forward) is averaging 11.6 points and 6.9 rebounds a game.
“Those guys have played since they were freshmen,” Feldhaus said. “They are very experienced.”
Senior center Darien Tichenor adds 6.4 points and 7.1 rebounds a game.
Central had little trouble rolling past Franklin County Tuesday, 85-49, in the opening round of the 11th Region Tournament.
The Flyers hung around for a while, but the Indians used a 22-4 run to take a 44-29 halftime lead. Hawkins led four Indians in double figures with 21 points. He also pulled down six rebounds and had four assists and two steals.
Bosley finished with 19 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals, while Taylor had 17 points, three rebounds and Sam Jones came off the bench to score 12 points and pull down five rebounds.
Central will definitely face a much more difficult challenge today against a team that is more athletic and bigger than Franklin County.
“The biggest thing for us is that they are so much taller than us,” Feldhaus said. “We’ve got to keep them off the boards. We can’t let them manhandle us.”