PIKEVILLE, Ky. - The 30 year drought continues for the Sheldon Clark Cardinals as they saw their dream of winning a 15th region tournament championship go down the drain with a 59 - 48 loss to Johnson Central Saturday night at the East Kentucky Expo Center.
Johnson Central used a 18 - 2 run to overcome a 18 - 11 SCHS lead. The Cardinals trailed 30-20 at the half and never could recover.
A near capacity crowd filled the Expo Center to see the fourth meeting of the year between these two 57th district rivals.
Thus, Johnson Central is headed back to Rupp Arena for the Kentucky Sweet 16 state tournament.
Johnson Central, under the direction of head coach Tommy McKenzie, won its eighth straight game, improving to 22-11.
Three players reached double figures in the scoring column for the Golden Eagles . Sophomore guard Braxton Blair led Johnson Central with 12 points. Shane Hall and Kyle Gullett, a player who entered the game off the bench, added 11 points apiece. The Johnson Central bench outscored Sheldon 15-0.
Johnson Central dominated on the boards, outrebounding Sheldon Clark 33-18. Sheldon Clark was limited to only five offensive rebounds.
The Golden Eagles shot 56.1 percent (23-of-41) from the field. Johnson Central was five of 10 from 3-point range.
Hall, who was named the 15th Region Tournament Most Valuable Player for the second straight year, also had six rebounds and two blocks.
Sophomore guard Chase Parsley paced Sheldon Clark with a game-high 29 points. Parsley was 10 of 25 from the field. The talented guard connected on three of nine 3-point field goal attempts.
Parsley was the only Sheldon Clark scorer to reach double figures. Dylan James and Chase Kirk both finished one shot short of double figures, scoring eight points apiece for the Cardinals.
“I would have traded the two wins over Central during the regular season for a win tonight”, a disappointed Cardinal head coach Frankie Smith said. “On this night Johnson Central was the better team, we shot 36 percent and you can’t win games against good teams shooting like that but this has been a great season, nobody picked us to be here and I couldn’t be more prouder of a group of young men for making the 15th regional tournament for the first time in 25 years very special. Their effort and energy every game was simply outstanding and they made this season very special for me as coach.”
Sheldon Clark shot 36.3 percent (15-of-41) from the field in the season-ending loss. The Cardinals were only five of 18 from 3-point range.
Johnson Central will face Ballard in the opening round of the Boys’ Sweet 16 in Rupp Arena on Thursday. Tipoff for the Johnson Central-Ballard game is set for 6:30 p.m.
Score by quarters:
SCHS … 14 8 6 20 - 48
JCHS … 11 19 7 22 - 59
Sheldon Clark (21-11) — Parsley 29, James 8, Blackburn 1, Kirk 8, Rice 2.
Johnson Central (22-10) — Adkins 7, Blair 12, McPeek 5, Salyer 9, Hall 11, McKenzie 2, Hitchcock 2, Gullett 11.
(Editor’s Note: Thanks to Ronnie Hickman of the Mountain Citizen and Steve Lemaster of the Floyd County Times for information.)