The first round of the Mountain Classic came to a close on Wednesday night. It featured a couple of young stars emerging, a new nickname and big guys shooting 3s.
Game 3 - Knott County Central 60 - Knox Central 41
Knott Central used an 18-9 second quarter to open up a 30-18 halftime lead. They put it away with a 16-9 fourth quarter. Sophomore Zach Davis came ready to play for the Patriots. He finished with 19 and snagged National Guard Player of the Game honors. Stuart Stamper got it done from the free throw line, hitting on 7 of 8 attempts and racking up 15 points. Zach Mullins was key in their big second quarter, scoring all 9 of his points in that quarter. Travis Canady and Tanner Broughton had 10 a piece for the Panthers. Tobie Merida only had 5, but the 6-6 Freshman really impressed me with his play, especially with his hustle. He earned himself the nickname "Teen Wolf" after this performance. If you don't remember the movie, check it out. It's worth it.
Game 4 - Hazard 66 - Johnson Central 53
The final game of the first round started out with a bang. The two teams combined to score 40 points in the first quarter (Hazard led 23-17). Both teams were living by the 3 early on, hitting 8 3s in the first quarter. The rest of the game became a highly physical contest with 45 combined fouls (23 for JCHS, 22 for Hazard). The Bulldogs got out to a double digit lead in the third quarter and never looked back. Josh Whitaker led the bulldogs with 19 while Eric Back claimed National Guard Player of the game honors with 17. Freshman Jordan Olinger also hit double figures with 10. Cody Parker led everyone in the first round with 24 points. The 6-6 forward showed a nice touch from 3, burying 4 of them in the game. Tanner Bratton had 12 and J.K. Hall added 10.
Play of the Night - Stuart Stamper (Knott Central), buzzer beating 3 to end the third quarter and push the Patriots lead to double digits.
Highlight of the Night - There was a crazy stretch of play during the Hazard-Johnson Central game that involved two blocks and a great pass that led to a Josh Whitaker basket. All of this happened in the matter of about 10 seconds on the same end of the floor.
Performance of the Night - It would be easy to say Eric Back, Josh Whitaker, Zach Davis or Cody Parker. But this one goes as a group to the Freshman tonight. I loved what I saw out of several of them. Especially their hustle and poise.
What will happen the rest of the week? Tune in to find out.
~ Jeff Archer