By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
The South Middle seventh grade didn’t win the North Laurel Tip-off Tournament, but they really weren’t supposed to either.
“(Knox County) is picked to be one of the best teams in the state of Kentucky. They beat us by 20 this morning and their coach said no one had played them that close this year. They have been beating people by 50 and 60,” South Middle coach Quinton Floyd said.
South Middle would rally out of the loser’s bracket and give Knox County an even tougher test in the championship game. The Cardinals had the game tied at 61-61 before Knox County escaped 70-66 for the title.
“We had a tie game with about three minutes to go against one of the teams favored to win in the state tournament,” Floyd said.
It was actually even later than that when Matthew Dalton grabbed a rebound and went coast-to-coast for a three-point play that tied the game. Knox County scored the next five points and then held on for the win.
“Overall in the tournament I’m very pleased with how they played,” Floyd said.
South Middle won its first game Friday over Northern Pulaski 53-46, which also meant they would be the only team that had to play two games Friday night. J.J. Ramey led South Middle with 14 points and Dalton scored 12.
“We got down 12 in the first game and came back and won by seven,” Floyd said.
They would pick up a second tournament win by topping Bell Central 49-25. Chase Sanders led South Middle in the second win with 12 points and Landon Wombles scored eight.
The Cardinals lost to Knox County Saturday morning 65-39 with Dalton scoring 13 points. South Middle then knocked off Northern Pulaski a second time, 43-39, to reach the finals. Dalton again led all scorers with 14 points and Sanders added 11.
A win in the final game would have forced a second championship game in the double-elimination tournament. The Cardinals almost pulled the upset.
“Rebounding was a big thing. We got on the boards a lot better. Our tempo was a lot better. We got up and down the floor and we limited our turnovers,” Floyd said. “We shared the ball. Everybody that played got in the book and I love that because it’s a team game.”
Dalton scored 25 points in the final game with 18 in the fourth quarter. Dalton made three three-pointers in the fourth quarter. Sanders scored 20 points including clutch fourth quarter shots as well. “They played their guts out right there. I’m proud of them and I think it’s a sign of good things to come.”
North Middle played three games in the tournament with losses to Knox County and Northern Pulaski. The loss to Knox County dropped North Middle into the loser’s bracket. The Jaguars then picked up a nine-point win over Bell Central.
A hot-shooting Northern Pulaski team knocked North Middle out of the tournament. Four three-pointers in the first half by Garrett Heath helped Northern Pulaski open a 24-7 lead.
Scoring from the North Middle games was not available.