By Bob Flynn
Register Sports Writer
The Cardiac Kids are headed to the championship game of the Sweet 16.
For the second day in a row, the Madison Central Indians staged a dramatic late-game comeback — this time to beat Hopkinsville, 60-56, Saturday to advance to the championship game for the first time in school history.
The Indians will take on Ballard at 2 p.m. today at Rupp Arena.
Also for the second day in a row, Dominique Hawkins put the Indians on his back and carried them to the win.
Hawkins, who had only seven points at the half, finished with 30, including 17-of-20 free throws.
Central trailed 46-34 with 1:25 remaining in the third quarter after Jordan Majors hit his second three pointer of the game, forcing Central coach Allen Feldhaus to call timeout to try to stop the Tigers’ momentum.
After the timeout, the Indians, who seemed to have tired legs all night, suddenly looked rejuvenated. The defense got stiffer and the offense came alive and the Indians went on an 18-3 run over the next four minutes to retake the lead.
“I didn’t really have to say much in the timeout,” Feldhaus said. “I just said it’s time. These guys just find a way to win. That is a good thing about having eight seniors on your team. They believe when you get down they don’t give up. Our saying is, ‘We answer the call.’”
Daniel Parke got things started, knocking the ball off a Hopkinsville player on the press. Hawkins then buried a jump shot.
The Indians defense forced Hopkinsville into two consecutive turnovers, which Bosley, who struggled shooting all night, took advantage of, scoring six consecutive points to cut the lead to 46-42.
“It was just a matter, momentum wise, of making two stops in a row. The momentum changed and we finally got our crowd into it and everybody seemed to feed off of it and their energy levels really picked up,” Feldhaus said.
After a free throw by the Tigers’ Jaqualls Matlock and a basket by T.J. Elam, Hawkins scored eight straight for the Indians to tie the game at 49.
Parke hit one-of-two free throws and Bosley hit a short jumper and the Indians had their biggest lead of the game at 52-49 with four minutes to go.
The Tigers cut the Central lead to 52-51, then Hawkins nailed a long three pointer to put Central up 55-51 with three minutes remaining.
Hopkinsville and Majors, who had a game-high 31 points, refused to quit. Majors scored five straight points to push the Tigers back in front 56-55 with one minute to go.
Hawkins was fouled on a drive to the basket with 36 seconds remaining and calmly sank two free throws to push the Indians on top again at 57-56.
George Walker intercepted the inbound pass.
Hawkins was fouled again and hit the first free throw, but missed the second, giving Central a 58-56 lead.
Quan Taylor came up with a huge block of a Majors shot with 10.5 seconds to go. Hawkins got the rebound and was fouled.
This time Hawkins hit both free throws to seal the 60-56 win.
“In the first half, Hoptown was beating us at our own game. They were flat out getting after us in a man-to-man defense and we were struggling to score,” Feldhaus said. “I was kind of disappointed in our defense in the first half but I thought we really picked it up in the second half. Our bread and butter is our man-to-man defense and ultimately that is what led us. You are going to have games that are ugly offensively that your defense has to carry you and it definitely did tonight.”
While it was Hawkins, Taylor and Bosley that got the attention again Saturday, Feldhaus said without the help of the role players, the Indians would have lost the game.
“Hunter Stocker, George Walker and Daniel Parke had very good games and they have all year. They understand their roles and that we’ve got to have toughness plays from them and that’s what we got,” Feldhaus said. “Daniel made some big plays and really got the run started. George is so smart and anticipates so well defensively and that gets a lot done for us. And Hunter did a great job defensively and rebounded the ball. It was one of his better games.”
The championship game will be a rematch of a Dec. 22 game in the King of the Bluegrass Tournament in Louisville.
The Bruins defeated the Indians 88-86 in the semifinals of the tournament in a shootout between Hawkins and Louisville commitment Quin Snyder, with both scoring more than 30 points in the game.
Feldhaus said that his players are tired but he knows they will be ready to play and he’s happy they will have the experience of playing in the final game of the state tournament.
“I know our guys are tired. That game last night had to take a lot out of us. I know this game took a lot out of us, but they will find some way. They will find that extra energy tomorrow,” Feldhaus said. “These first three games are special, but the championship game is another level with the pre-game ceremony and things. These guys deserve to go through that. It’s definitely something they are not going to forget the rest of their lives.”
Bosley finished the game with 13 points and five rebounds, Taylor had eight points and five rebounds, Parke finished with four points, while Stocker had four points and Demarcus George had two points and three rebounds.
The Indians shot only 18.8 percent from behind the three-point line, but were 29-of-33 from the free throw line for 87.9 percent. Central out-rebounded the Tigers 33-31.