Edmonson County Ends Butler's Season With 44-42 Win
Darren Doyle, story: Madison Doyle, photos:
It was a fight to the end, but that's exactly what Edmonson County expected going into tonight's game against Butler County, a very solid team that came for business. As in all first round games in a district tournament, one team advances to the finals, the other ends their season. Tonight, it was Edmonson County that came out on top in a physical match and according to lots of Wildcat fans, overcame some lopsided foul situations.
Emotions ran high as the game featured a double technical foul, an intentional foul, multiple warnings from the referees to players for trash-talking, and even the student sections were warned by officials.
No matter which team you pulled for, it was easy to see the foul discrepancy. Butler County had made 19 free throw attempts before Edmonson County took their first foul shot, which didn't happen until a couple minutes into the fourth quarter; however, few good teams will complain about the officiating. Instead, they figure out ways to power through, as was the case with the Wildcats tonight, led by junior guard Dalton Decker.
"The refs let us play and it was a battle from start to end," said Decker. "They played us harder than any team before, but me and my teammates always give it all, every night we step on the court. I'm so thankful for my team, my coaches, and our senior Griffin (Spainhoward). It was a great team win."
While it was indeed a team win, Decker iced the game in the final minute on four consecutive free throws, two coming with 9.6 seconds on the clock. He shot the first free throw of the game for the Cats with 6:45 left in the game. After missing his first few, it was the final four that counted.
"I was kind of shaken up by the first I missed, but knew I had to hit the ones that would keep us in the game so I didn't let it stop me," said Decker. "I'm glad I was able to knock down the big ones."
Edmonson County held the edge in the first half, thanks to 13 turnovers by Butler County, which kept the Bears from gaining too much momentum. The Wildcats took a 23-18 into the locker room at the break. Butler County responded in the third by narrowing the gap and outscoring the Cats by 1 to cut EC's lead to 33-31 going into the fourth. The Bears tied the score at 33 just over thirty seconds into the fourth quarter. It was the first tie since the score was 8-8 in the first.
Butler County took a 35-33 lead on a couple of free throws with 5:38 to go, but that lead was was short-lived. Edmonson County bounced back with a 6-0 run that included back-to-back layups on steals from both Chaz Wilson and Nick Clemmons. Butler County began fouling in the final minute and Decker went back to the line with 17 seconds left, where he hit both shots. A late 3 by Butler County's Parker Rice kept the Bears' hopes alive, but Decker's final free throws were just enough to withstand a layup from Butler County with 2.6 seconds left. Decker grabbed the ball and held it out of bounds as time expired.
"The kids stepped up and they kept grinding. It was a grinding game," said Coach Mac, who was back in action after some illness. "We got into some foul trouble very early in the second half and didn't realize we were in that bad of shape, but again, we had some kids come in that hadn't played a whole lot, but by-golly everybody that got in the game tonight knew their role, did their job, played aggressive, and didn't back down."
While no Wildcats wowed the crowd with crazy stat lines, the rebounds, buckets, and defensive plays were timely, especially from senior Spainhoward, whose 6 points and 4 rebounds seem to come at just the right time.
"I'm happy for everyone of them boys. I love them, they're like my sons, but I can't be more happier for Griff," said McClintic. "That boy could've quit on me two years ago, because we never got him on the floor, nothing. But when it came down to gut-check time tonight, he was there."
Spainhoward agreed that it was one of the most physical matches he'd seen all season, but didn't expect anything different.
"For us to rebound the way we did and battle in the paint, it really played a big factor in helping us win the game," he said. "If we continue to, I believe good things will happen."
He also said the opportunity to play for a district championship as a senior is an amazing feeling.
"I've wanted nothing less than to play in this game since I was a sophomore sitting in the stands, watching the 2017 team win it. I've thought about this game every time I've walked in the gym all year long and with the great teammates I have, I like our chances."
Edmonson County will take on Grayson County in the championship game this Friday, at 7pm at ECHS. Edmonson's girls will have a shot at back-to-back titles as they take on Trinity in the girls finals on Thursday night, also at 7pm. The audio stream will be carried live on the Edmonson Voice.