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Campbell County knocks off top-ranked team in opening round of boys state tournament

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

LEXINGTON — Fate finally smiled on the Campbell County boys basketball team. After game-winning shots in the final seconds ended their season the last three years, the Camels got a few breaks with the game on the line and defeated John Hardin, 61-60, in the first round of the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Sweet 16 state tournament on Wednesday at Rupp Arena.

John Hardin center Preston Murrell made a short jumper with five seconds left, but the field goal didn’t count because his coach had called a timeout. Then Murrrell and one of his teammates both missed shots close to the basket just before the final horn sounded.

Campbell County forward Reid Jolly, center, tries to get off a shot between two John Hardin defenders during his team’s first-round win in the state tournament. (Photo by Bob Jackson)

It was the first loss of the season for the Bulldogs (35-1), who were ranked No. 1 in the last Associated Press state coaches poll.

“Obviously, we’re very happy that we won this game,” said Campbell County coach Aric Russell. “We lost on some tough shots in the past, so it’s nice to be on the other end of that.”

The Camels (30-4) return to the state tournament quarterfinals, where they lost to Oldham County on a last-second shot last year.  They’ll face Walton-Verona at noon on Friday with the winner advancing to the final four for the first time in either team’s history.

Campbell County had its lowest scoring total of the season in a 54-48 loss at Walton-Verona on Jan. 18. The Camels have won 17 straight games since then and were ranked No. 7 in the final AP state coaches poll.

“I’m glad we’re not playing them at their place this time, but they’re really good so it’s going to be another tough one for us,” coach Russell said of the rematch with Walton-Verona.

The Camels got another big game out of senior forward Reid Jolly in the win over John Hardin. He scored 30 points to go along with 10 rebounds, three assists and two blocks. With 27 seconds left, he was fouled driving to the basket and made two free throws that gave his team a 61-60 lead.

“Honestly, in the fourth quarter, I was struggling hitting my shots and I really needed to hit those free throws,” Jolly said. “I believe in myself at all times. That’s the most important thing to do. When you’re down to the last few seconds, wanting the ball comes natural to me.”

Campbell County’s other inside player, Tanner Lawrence, had 17 points and six rebounds. He and Jolly provided 17 of the team’s 23 field goals and 16 of the 28 rebounds.

John Hardin guard Jachai Walker, right, tries to block a layup attempt by Campbell County guard Drew Wilson. (Photo by Bob Jackson)

John Hardin came into the state tournament averaging 39 rebounds per game, but the Bulldogs only managed to get 26 against the Camels.

“We watched film on them and saw how well they hit the boards, and a lot of their (scoring) came off the offensive glass,” coach Russell said. “We definitely did the job we asked the kids to do on the boards. And that’s why we were able to stay in the game and ended up winning.”

After racing out to an 18-6 lead, Campbell County did not score on five straight possessions and John Hardin pulled to within 20-17 by the end of the first quarter.

The Camels took a 31-24 lead on a basket by Lawrence midway through the second quarter, but the offense faltered again and John Hardin went ahead, 34-33, with 1:34 left in the period. A basket by Campbell County guard Drew Wilson put his team back on top, 35-34, at halftime.

At the break, Jolly already had 19 points, six rebounds and two assists. He was 6-of-12 from the field and had both of his team’s 3-point goals.

“He was tough from the beginning to the end,” John Hardin coach Jared McCurry said of Jolly. “He didn’t stop and kept pushing through and attacked the boards every time a shot went up. He was a tough guard for us, and he’s a great player.”

John Hardin took its biggest lead of the game, 45-39, in the third quarter and Campbell County responded with a run that tied it, 53-53, going into the fourth quarter.

After a 3-point basket by John Hardin guard Jachai Walker put the Bulldogs ahead, 60-57, with 2:33 remaining, they didn’t score on their last four possessions. They had one turnover, missed the front end in two bonus free throw situations and neither of their shots fell in the final seconds.

“I thought our defensive stand at the end was exceptional and our kids deserved it,” Russell said of the victory.

CAMPBELL COUNTY 20  15  18  8 — 61
JOHN HARDIN            17  17  19  7 — 60

CAMPBELL COUNTY (30-4): R. Jolly 9 10 30, Lawrence 8 1 17, Wirth 2 0 5, Wilson 2 0 4, Gross 1 0 2, Helton 1 0 3. Totals: 23 11 61.

JOHN HARDIN (35-1): Matthews 7 1 15, Murrell 2 2 6, Scott 4 3 13, Harris 4 3 11, Walker 3 1 9, Davis 2 1 6. Totals: 22 11 60.

3-pont goals: CC — Jolly 2, Wirth, Helton. JH — Scott 2, Walker 2, Davis.

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