Knox County Boys Power To Brashear Championship
By David Sharp
Knox County senior forwards Lance McMahon and Joseph Rice have understudied some of the better interior players the Eagles have enjoyed in years.
Dennis Dent was a four year starter; two time all stater and will go down as one of the top boy’s basketball players in school history.
Justin Reeves emerged to the NEMO Class 2 all district team as a sophomore. Knox County has won back to back district titles.
Dennis Dent sat in the stands as a Knox County alumnus. Justin Reeves was absent from the 2010 Brashear Tournament boys’ championship game due to illness.
Lance McMahon and Joe Rice dominated the lane most of the February 13, 2010 contest with a up and coming Marion County Mustang team, leading the Eagles to their third Brashear Tournament boy’s championship in four seasons with a 52-45 win.
Knox County has won seven consecutive varsity boy’s games. The Eagles improved their season record to 14-7. Lance McMahon scored a game high 14 points. Joseph Rice was in double figures with 12 points. Knox County interior players outscored their counterparts 26-15 on the night.
“It’s pretty satisfying when your leading scorer and rebounder, your post player Justin Reeves is absent,” commented Eagle coach Jesse Crawford when asked about the Eagle performance in the paint. “Lance McMahon and Joe Rice came out and dominated the glass tonight. We pounded the block.”
“That was our game plan going in, to get their big kid (J.J. Chatfield) in foul trouble,” said Jesse Crawford. “He got two (fouls) in the first quarter. We grounded and pounded them. We weren’t hitting much from outside like we would like to.”
“They play stifling defense. They make you work. They work the clock,” said Crawford of the young and athletic Mustangs. I couldn’t be happier. We have won seven in a row. We haven’t lost in a month.”
Marion County (9-10) shot the ball well early, bolting from the blocks to a five point edge. Joe Rice completed a three point play, trimming the deficit to 9-7 with 2:39 remaining in the first quarter.
The move was a harbinger of things to come for a large gathering of Knox County supporters.
Marion County ran the court, beating the Eagles back on defense. The Mustangs built a six point lead. Leighton McCabe cut the lead in half with a home run ball. Lance McMahon finished a three shot opportunity at the 1:20 mark of period one.
Joe Rice hammered another offensive rebound home, tying the score at 14 with ten seconds to play in the quarter. Marion County got better shots early in the game. The Eagles kept grinding inside until they turned the tide their way.
Marion County forward Clay Pollard scored eight of his ten points in the first quarter. J.J. Chatfield was blanked in the first quarter. Chatfield scored two points during the second period. Keenan Gillaspy and Leighton McCabe kept the Eagles close with first quarter home run balls.
The score was even at 14 entering the second quarter of play. Knox County improved their interior play by the minute. Joe Rice sat out much of the first half of the season due to academic issues. Knox County had good scoring balance during a 9-1 run to a 31-23 halftime lead.
Knox County outscored the Mustangs 17-9 in the second quarter. Knox County had several three shot chances. Marion County was often limited to one shot on their end.
Tristan Lonberger took the ball to the hole, completing a spectacular lay in with 20 ticks on the clock. Marion County never quit the entire game.
Freshman guard Kason Spratt fired in a pair of Mustang three balls late in the third quarter. Knox County turnovers fueled a Marion County rally from a 12 point deficit to a 41-38 Eagle lead. Dustin Bock took advantage of two more turnovers, tossing in a free throw at the six minute mark of the fourth quarter.
Knox County held a 41-31 lead after three periods of play. Cameron Kirmse drove the right wing and found Leighton McCabe driving the baseline for a key Eagle hoop with 5:09 to play in the game.
Joe Rice and Lance McMahon answered the challenge with interior buckets. Joseph Rice brought the Knox County faithful to their feet with a power move resulting in a three point play. The Eagles led 50-40 with 2:47 showing on the clock.
The decisive 9-1 Eagle run did not end the game. Marion County stormed back within a 50-45 score. Clay Pollard wrestled the ball away and sank a put back with 33 seconds remaining in the game. The Eagles scored the final bucket of the contest.
Knox County celebrated their first varsity basketball tournament title of the season. “We knew they would come back and challenge us. We handled the initial wave. We handled the ball well under pressure,” said Coach Crawford.
“We scored from all different angles. Seven guys got in the score book. I have been waiting all year for that game from Joe Rice and there it was.”
“We didn’t have the big guy, but we still had heart,” said Joseph Rice. “They were guarding our guards so we went inside. (Justin) Reeves is pretty good, but we did without him. That means we will be that much better when we get him back. I think we can do it.”
“I knew he had the potential. He works hard in practice. He had to miss some games early. He is clicking on all cylinders now. If we can get (Justin) Reeves back, I think we will be pretty dangerous in March.”
Leighton McCabe had another solid game, scoring nine Eagle points. Keenan Gillaspy scored seven points. Tristan Lonberger scored six. Cameron Kirmse and Brock Couch added two points each. The Eagles were 6-10 from the free throw line overall.
The Eagles left the door ajar by sinking one of four free throws in the final quarter. Marion County was 5-7 from the charity stripe. Knox County held a 20-11 advantage in made field goals. Marion County countered with six home run balls to a pair of Eagle blasts.
“Their kids hit some big buckets. We fell asleep on the back end of our zone,” said Mustang coach Ryan Wood. “I don’t want to take anything away from Knox (County). They played really hard. They were ready for the challenge.”
“They kept fighting, kept fighting,” said Coach Wood of the late fourth quarter Mustang rally. “I didn’t think we hit very well in the second half. I was pleased with our effort. I am proud of the kids. I didn’t think we had our A game tonight.”
“Before the season I thought we would have four or five wins. We have nine now with five games left in the season,” said Wood of the Mustang’s dramatic improvement. I’m proud of their improvement. The future looks pretty bright if they keep working at it.”
Kason Spratt led three Mustangs in double figures with 13 points. Dustin Bock scored 11 and Clay Pollard added ten Marion County points.
“We knew we had to step up with Justin being gone,” said senior forward Lance McMahon with the Brashear Tournament championship trophy in hand. “When teams look at us they think Justin (Reeves).
“As big men, we knew we had to step up,” said Lance McMahon. “More importantly, we had to step up on the defensive side. I think we did that. We struggled rebounding against North Shelby and Macon County. We did an OK job tonight.”
Lance McMahon and the basketball Class of 2010 have seen so many championship trophies hoisted by Eagle athletes in other sports, and four first place boy’s basketball trophies in as many years. The most recent title makes it five.
The next available first place trophy will be awarded at Scotland County HS the first week in March. Our goal was to win the North Shelby, the Brashear and District championships,” said Lance McMahon.
“If we can get two out of three I will be pleased. “We have a lot of work ahead of us,” said McMahon of his team’s success. “This one has a special place in my heart.”