MOUNT WASHINGTON - In a rematch of last season’s ‘B’ final, the Mount Washington Generals barely avoided déjà vu all over again in Thursday night’s ‘A’ Championship game of the Bullitt County Middle School Basketball Tournament.
The only in-county loss for the Generals over the past two seasons came a year ago in the title game when Zoneton pulled off the upset. Mount Washington had won 12 straight games against in-county foes since that time, including two victories over the Timberwolves this season.
Thursday night’s contest was once again sponsored by Schmid Funeral Home along with The Awards Center and The Pioneer News.
The last words from Mount Washington head coach Jeff Phelps to his team before the final was not to forget last season.
Mount Washington didn’t forget, but they still had to hang on down the stretch before securing a 42-40 victory.
“I’m proud of our kids,” Phelps said after the team cut down the nets on its home court. “It was a hard fought game. I tried to get our kids to focus. We had beaten them so badly in the second game (winning by 30 points) that I thought we might be a little overconfident. Just our experience was a major factor.”
The Generals had beaten Zoneton by 9-points early in the season and then in the second meeting had rolled to the 30-point win, but the Timberwolves were without one starter in that game and lost another starter early in the contest.
Since getting Logan James back during the last week of the regular season, Zoneton had hit its stride, overpowering Eastside in the semi-finals two nights earlier.
That made it surprising when Mount Washington jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first four minutes of the game. Zoneton finally found the range late in the first quarter and by halftime had pulled to within 18-16.
The Timberwolves then scored the first two baskets of the second half to momentarily take the lead. Three times Zoneton had a two-point lead before Mount Washington scored eight straight points, including four by Tyler Sharpe, to regain the lead for good.
Mount Washington took a 30-26 lead into the fourth quarter and pushed the margin all the way to 37-28 before Zoneton made a late run. With 1:15 remaining, Mount Washington was up 39-34 and Zoneton had to foul twice before sending Kyle McKinley to the line with 1:03 on the clock. McKinley hit both shots to push the lead back to seven points.
But Zoneton had one more push left. On the next trip down the floor, Ryan Hanson worked free for a three-pointer from straightaway. Suddenly, Mount Washington was struggling at the foul line, missing the front end of the bonus twice and missing four chances in the final 50 seconds. Nate Johnson hit one free throw for Zoneton at :12 and after Zoneton forced a 5-second call, Wilson hit one free throw.
Mount Washington’s final two misses at the foul line came at :06.6. Zoneton put the ball into the hands of Wilson who drove to the basket for an uncontested lay-up. With no time-outs remaining, Zoneton could not stop the clock and time ran out.
It was the fourth time in five seasons that Zoneton head coach Casey Bannon’s team came up short in the championship game.
“It is way too many times,” the coach said after emerging from her post-game meeting with her team. “We just got down too much early. The guys were doing what we wanted, but we couldn’t make any shots.
“After the way it turned out last year, our guys thought they had a shot tonight,” Bannon added. “We told them that we had nothing to lose, that all the pressure was on Mount Washington. We knew it would come down to the end.”
Mount Washington finished the middle school season with only two losses and those were both to Barrett Middle School from Jefferson County, a team that also beat the Timberwolves in the Jimmy V tournament held at Zoneton two weeks ago.
Sharpe led Mount Washington with 15 points. Phelps went to his sparingly as only five players scored for the Generals. McKinley added nine points while both Bailey Rakes and Austin Matthews had eight points.
Wilson was the leading scorer in the game with 17 points. The Timberwolves also got eight points from Logan James and seven from Hanson.
Bullitt County Middle School Basketball Tourney ‘A’ Final At MWMS
ZONETON 40 (5-11-10-14) Daulton Walls 2, Nate Johnson 2, Ryan Hanson 7, Camden Davenport 4, Logan James 4, Garrett Wilson 17, Mark Dunnavan, Austin Harding, DaCota Thixton, Hunter Bailey, Devin Bale, Koty Johnson and Jared Osborne.
Coaches - Casey Bannon, Jessie Curry and Travis Ridley.
MOUNT WASHINGTON 42 (14-4-12-12) Tyler Sharpe 15, Austin Matthews 8, Bailey Rakes 8, Kyle McKinley 9, Alan Miles 2, Clayton Stallings, Clayton Miller, Dalton Smith, Jacob Birge, Connor Polson, Grayson Payne, Mitchell Langley, Mitchell Stengel and Shawn Wood.
Coaches - Jeff Phelps and Josh Meredith.