By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
The Madison Central Indians will face Lexington Catholic in today’s championship game of the 11th Region Tournament after a 60-56 win over Henry Clay in a slugfest Friday.
The game, played before a raucous sellout crowd in McBrayer Arena, was like a heavyweight boxing match for 40 minutes, with both teams taking their opponent’s best shots then delivering counterpunches of their own.
The Indians were the one that finally landed the knockout punches and not surprisingly, they came from Central’s two best players — Dominique Hawkins and Ken-Jah Bosley.
Trailing 56-52, Hawkins landed the first blow with a pull-up jump shot in the lane while being fouled, with 1:36 left. He hit the free throw to pull Central to within one at 55-56.
With the Blue Devils working the clock down for a final shot, Bosley made the defensive play of the game, stepping into the passing lane for a steal near midcourt.
Bosley raced to the other end and hit a layup over Jeremiah Tisdale while being knocked into the Central cheerleaders, that give the Indians a 57-56
lead with 55 seconds to go.
“That was huge. It gave us a lead and gave us a little breathing room and put a little pressure on them,” Central coach Allen Feldhaus said. “I could see us defensively getting a little closer and closer and closer to one of those steals and he finally shot that gap and got us one and gave us a little lead.”
The Blue Devils’ Jordan Green missed a driving shot on the other end with 26 seconds to go.
The Indians came up with the rebound and Hawkins was fouled and hit one free throw to give Central a 58-56 lead with 24 seconds to go.
The Indians’ defense made one more stand, forcing Green into a heavily contested shot which he missed and Hawkins was fouled with under 10 second to go.
He drained both free throws to give the Indians the win and a date with Lexington Catholic in the championship game.
Hawkins finished the night with 24 points and five rebounds, while Bosley added 18 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals. The two scored 13 of Central’s 15 fourth-quarter points.
Henry Clay scored six-straight points to take the late four-point lead, forcing Feldhaus to take a timeout.
During the timeout, Feldhaus said all he did was remind his team that it had been there before and not to panic.
“I said, ‘We’ve been in this situation many times before and we still found a way to win.’ When you’ve got a bunch of seniors that believe in each other, they are never out of a game and they believed they were not out of the game,” Feldhaus said. “They are a pretty determined bunch. When you have a bunch of seniors like that and you have to go through what we went through last year and getting upset. Everybody remembers how that felt and didn’t want to feel it again.”
The game was extremely close from the outset with the lead changing hands 15 times. Each team built a seven-point lead once during the game only to see the other storm back and erase the deficit and re-take the lead.
The Central defense was stellar all night and got a big lift from players coming off the bench.
Senior George Walker played 11 minutes in the game and helped the Indians contain the quick Henry Clay guards and keep them from driving to the basket for easy shots, which they got repeatedly in their win over Dunbar on Tuesday. He also hit a big three pointer in the first half to stop a Blue Devil run.
Demarcus George played 19 minutes in relief of Hunter Stocker, who battled foul trouble in the game. George drew the assignment of guarding the much taller Trey Grundy and repeatedly stymied him after Henry Clay tried to exploit the matchup. George also scored four points.
“Demarcus did a great job and they went right at him. They took Grundy and tried to isolate him, but Demarcus is athletic enough and has long arms and did a great job defensively on him,” Feldhaus said. “I thought Demarcus was a little quicker and he took away every move Grundy tried to make to the basket. I think they figured out it wasn’t going to be as easy as they thought. It’s nice to have somebody come off the bench and give you that defensive spark.”
The Indians got six points and four rebounds from Daniel Parke and five points, 10 rebounds and some outstanding defense from Quan Taylor.
After redeeming themselves from last year’s semifinal loss to Woodford County, the Indians have one more demon to exorcise in Lexington Catholic.
The Knights knocked Central out of a trip to Rupp Arena and the Sweet 16 in 2011 when they defeated the Indians 59-53 in the 11th Region championship game.
“We’re ready to go. It’s Lexington Catholic. We had them in the finals two years ago and they made us like it,” Feldhaus said. “Hopefully it’s our turn this year.”
The championship game begins at 7:30 p.m.
The Indians last won the regional title in 2006 when they beat Scott County 60-57 in the Farnham Dudgeon Civic Center in Frankfort.