By ROCKY STANLEY - The Independent
ASHLAND — Chad Jackson and Dakotah Euton showed Tuesday night why they are two of the best high school sophomores anywhere.
Rose Hill Christian’s pair of prolific 10th-graders combined for all 28 of their team’s points in the second half to hold off Morgan County 63-60 in Charles Stewart Gymnasium.
Jackson, a 6-foot-4 guard, attacked the basket and made his last eight shots from the field. The 6-8 Euton sank four consecutive free throws in the final 34 seconds as the Royals fought off a strong challenge in their home opener.
In short, the two young stars carried Rose Hill to the finish line.
“Anytime we needed two points, Chad went and got it,’’ said Royals coach Tim Fraley. “He was a special player tonight, even after tweaking his ankle a little bit in the third quarter.’’
Jackson finished with 27 points and Euton 25. They also combined for 10 rebounds and Euton had a couple of big blocked shots down the stretch.
“We just had to get the `W’ tonight,’’ Jackson said. “We needed a good win after the loss at Marshall County (60-44) on Saturday. That’s what me and Dakotah have to do, make the big plays.’’
Rose Hill successfully threw over top of Morgan County’s defense to Jackson and Euton in the third quarter. Jackson had two tip-ins, scored off a nice alley-oop pass from freshman Robbie Barber and made a dazzling drive through traffic for a layup late in the period.
Morgan County remained unfazed, however, and pulled even at 53 with a 6-0 run to start the fourth quarter.
Rose Hill pushed the lead back out to six points on three Jackson baskets, but coach Matthew Perry’s Cougars refused to wilt. Brandon Ferguson’s free throw and Logan May’s 3-pointer sliced the lead to four with 1:56 left and Morgan County missed a shot from the lane that could have tied it.
Rose Hill appeared to have the game wrapped up with 12 seconds to go after Euton’s two free throws made it 63-57.
Morgan County had other ideas as Ferguson nailed a 3-pointer with five seconds remaining. The Cougars got the ball back on a missed Rose Hill free throw with four seconds left and had a good look on a 3-pointer, but Ferguson’s shot bounced off the rim.
Fraley wasn’t surprised about Morgan County’s gritty effort.
“All of coach Perry’s teams are like that,’’ Fraley said. “They are fundamentally sound and they are going to guard you. It’s no secret they were the winningest program in the region in the ‘90s. They are going to compete.’’
Perry pointed to the opening minutes as the key to the game. Morgan County turned the ball over on six of its first seven possessions, fell behind 9-0 and spent the rest of the night playing catch up.
“The first quarter was the difference,’’ Perry said. “We continue to allow people to jump out to a lead and put ourselves in a position of having to dig out of a hole. If you take away the first six or seven possessions, we played right with Rose Hill.’’
Morgan County is 1-3 after a rugged early schedule. The other losses came against Elliott County and Montgomery County.
“Nobody out there in the region has had a more brutal schedule,’’ Perry said. “We have played three Top 25 teams.’’
Cameron Dunn, a 6-3 junior, led the Cougars with 19 points including 4-for-6 shooting from 3-point territory. Ferguson, who averaged 24.3 points in the first three games, finished with 17 while going up against Jackson most of the night.
Rose Hill (2-1) travels to Boyd County on Friday. Morgan County plays host to East Carter on Saturday.