After playing three defending state champions in the Beach Ball Classic, Knott County Central made its finale against Spring Valley look easy.
The Patriots jumped all over preseason No. 2 team in South Carolina, eventually cruising to a 78-46 win. As a result, the Kentucky school’s first appearance in the tournament ended with a fifth-place finish.
Only a one-point loss to Florida powerhouse Sagemont two days ago prevented a better spot in the Beach Ball standings.
“It let’s us know that we’re here to compete,” senior and Vanderbilt signee Camron Justice said. “We’re not going to back down from anyone. We made a couple mistakes; Sagemont, they got out on an early lead on us. That was too big for us. But it lets us know we’re in the ball game against anybody we play.”
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That loss was also the Patriots’ only defeat of the season to date. On the flip side, the victory over Spring Valley was one of their most dominant.
Justice, who was honored on the court prior to the game for scoring his 3,000th career point, finished with 37 points. That total bumped him to 107 for the tournament, just outside the event’s four-game record chart.
He was 11-of-13 from the floor, a perfect 4-of-4 from 3-point range and 11-of-15 from the free-throw line.
Evan Hall put up 10 points and 14 rebounds, and Chance Cornett added 10 points. Some of the team’s best ball, though, was played on the defensive end.
Central held the Vikings to 25 percent from the field and forced 18 turnovers. Spring Valley senior and University of South Carolina signee P.J. Dozier was also held in check. He had 11 points – all in the first half – and missed all eight shots he took after the break.
It led to the top-five placement in the tournament.
“How many times can you come into a tournament like this and come out 3-1?” Central assistant coach Raymond Justice said. “We were a little disappointed in the loss. We didn’t shoot the ball well. … [Tuesday’s] game [against Shadow Mountain] was the hardest game. You’re coming off the loss. You’re tired. It’s a consolation game. I think our kids still played with heart and toughness.”
The run to the final day came, for the most part, without head coach B.B. King, who suffered a broken rib in a go-kart accident over the weekend. The coach was already on his way home during Wednesday’s game.
When the players join him back in Kentucky, they’ll know they were better than more than two-thirds of the field.
“You want to come down and win and stuff like that that,” Justice said. “But we knew this was an achievement to be in this nationally ranked tournament. We wanted to come down here and come out with a winning record. … We didn’t want to come out losing.”
• SPRING VALLEY (46) | Noah Harper 6, Malik Dunbar 4, P.J. Dozier 11, Ja’Lon Williams 6, DeAngelo Ward 6, Marcus Holloway 5, Chidibere Udogwu 3, Javondi Myers 4, Campbell Barker 1.
• KNOTT COUNTY CENTRAL (78) | Camron Justice 37, Austin Combs 5, Simon Christon 8, Evall Hall 10, Chance Cornett 10, Dalton Cornett 4, Isaac Caudill 4.
Halftime: Central 43-19. 3-pointers: Spring Valley 3 (Dozier, Holloway, Udogwu), Central 7 (Justice 4, Combs, C. Cornett, D. Cornett). Team fouls: Spring Valley 23, Franklin 14. Fouled out: Kendall Wall. Technical fouls: None.
Records: Spring Valley 6-7; Knott County Central 11-1