By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Wyan Pine had No. 1 seed and unbeaten London on the ropes from the first quarter to the fourth quarter. They had done all they could to control Matthew Cromer, the league’s leading scorer. Cromer would not let his team be denied as he scored 16 points in the fourth quarter to rally the Tigers to a 40-39 win in the finals of the Laurel County Boys’ Elementary Tournament.
“He is just awesome. That’s all you can say is he is awesome. He beats anything I have ever seen to be that young,” London coach Lonnie Harris said.
Wyan Pine led by as much as eight points in the first quarter and six points in the fourth quarter. They had their heroes too. Dakota Salva made six three-pointers to finish the night with 20 points. Max Burd added 12 points. Burd and Salva both hit clutch shot after clutch shot.
“I knew it was going to be a tight game because I watched them on Tuesday night. We beat them in the regular season by quite a bit, but I knew it was going to be a different game this time,” Harris said.
It was Wyan Pine that came out hot, including two early three-pointers from Salva. With Cromer being held to one field goal and two free throws in the opening quarter, the Comets opened a 10-2 lead.
“It didn’t start quite right, but I knew we could come back. We had to play defense and we had to start hitting shots,” Harris said.
The shots did start falling in the second quarter as Cromer poured in 10 more points on hanging shots and slashing layups. Cromer took a rebound end to end to tie the game at 14-14. Triston Spitser gave the Tigers their first lead at 16-14 with a pair of free throws with 7.7 seconds in the half.
After Cromer opened the second half by scoring on the inbounds play, Wyan Pine scored the next seven points to take a 25-18 lead. The Comets appeared to be rolling when Burd made two driving layups for a 25-18 lead.
There were times when Cromer tried to distribute the ball around. Then there were times he just had to take over. He scored six straight points to end the third quarter to pull his team back within a point at 25-24. It would also set up a wild fourth quarter.
Salva’s fifth three-pointer gave Wyan Pine a 34-28 lead with 3:01 to play. It took just 11 seconds for Cromer to answer with a three-pointer. He then took a Wyan Pine miss to the other end for a layup.
After another baseline drive by Burd, Cromer sank a three to tie the game 36-36.
It was only 12 seconds later when Salva answered with his sixth three -pointer as a packed North Laurel gym erupted.
With 36 seconds, a Cromer drive cut the lead to one point, Cromer then made a steal on the inbounds and was fouled. His free throw with 34.3 seconds tied the game for the fifth time. Fischer Proffitt made another steal for London and got the ball to Cromer. Cromer was fouled with seven seconds and made the first free throw for the 40-39 lead.
Wyan Pine did get a final shot off from the baseline, but it caught the front of the rim.
Laurel County Elementary Boys’ Finals
at North Laurel
London 40, Wyan Pine 39
London 4 12 8 16—40
Wyan Pine 10 4 11 14—39
LONDON (40)—Matthew Cromer 38, Triston Spitser 2.
WYAN PINE (39)—Max Burd 12, Alex Hostettler 2, Dakota Salva 20, Alex Sizemore 3, Reed Marcum 2.