The flashbacks had to be eerie when George Rogers Clark’s Jordan Graham elevated for a 15-footer as the waning seconds ran down the clock in regulation, Campbell County and the Cardinals knotted at 63.
But unlike the previous two years in which the Camels lost at the buzzer in the 10th Region Tournament, this one didn’t fall, drawing the back of the iron and out, sending the game to overtime.
“The only thing that was going through my mind was we’re in trouble because the past two years we’ve had terrible luck,” Camels’ Reid Jolly said.
“When that ball went up, I was like ‘please no!,” Camels’ Joel Day added.
Then the Camels did something in overtime the Cardinals failed to do at a high percentage in the fourth...knock down free throws. Campbell would score 11 of their 13 overtime points from the charity stripe as they closed out the hard fought victory over the Cardinals, 76-71 in a game that lived up to every bit of hype preceding it.
After losing a 16-point lead they built up, Reid Jolly’s 3-pointer with less than 30 seconds remaining tied the game up at 63-all to get it to overtime.
Then it was Joel Day’s turn to put the icing on the cake. Day, who has a Twitter handle named ALL DAY, that was nicknamed by Camels assistant coach Brent Sowder.
“Coach Sowder gave me the nickname and it’s just stuck from there. I like it," Day said.
Day calmly knocked down seven free throws in the overtime on top of countless other buckets throughout as the Camels will have a rematch of last year’s 10th Region Final with Scott.
“I take my four dribbles, I spin the ball, take one deep breath and I don’t think about anything else but the rim. Look at the back of the rim, follow through, I know it’s going in,” Day said of his free throw repertoire.
After the two went back-and-forth in a high intensity first quarter with the Camels leading 21-18, Campbell created separation by continuing to shoot at a high percentage paced by Day with 17 first half points. A Day triple capped off a 13-2 run to start the frame, building their advantage to 34-20. After Graham knocked down consecutive jumpers to get the Cardinals within 10, the Camels responded with six straight to give themselves their largest lead of the night at 40-24.
“We lost our composure there. One mistake led to two, two led to three. Our composure was a little rattled there and then obviously foul trouble hurt us there too,” Cardinals coach Josh Cook said.
GRC responded with the final five points of the half to go in the break, trailing 40-29.
Drew Wilson would open up the second half with a 3-pointer, but the Cardinals, who entered as the tournament favorite, started to mount their run. A 7-0 run got them within seven at 43-36. The Cardinals would get as close to within four points in the frame after consecutive Graham putbacks made it 51-47. A Tanner Clos bucket ended the scoring in the third as the Camels took a 53-47 lead into the fourth.
The Cardinals were finally able to draw even at 58-all on a Brennan Canada putback with 3:16 to play.
After Day knocked down two free throws, a Graham jumper followed by a Will Philpot 3-point play with 1:51 left gave GRC their first lead since the late stages of the first quarter. Neither team put any points up from there until Jolly knocked down the triple with less than 30 seconds to go. Jolly, normally known for going to get the offensive rebounds, it was teammate Tanner Clos who collected a miss and after a pass to Wilson who drove the lane, kicked out to Jolly on the wing and drained the perimeter shot.
“Throughout the game I wasn’t hitting many of my shots and needed a redemption shot. I had the opportunity and I knocked it down. Drew set me up great,” Jolly said.
The Cardinals decided to not to call a timeout and let things play out.
“You can call the timeout and try to draw something up, but in the end you put the ball in your player’s hands. If we had to do it over, I would do it again. I’d give him the basketball, we trust him to make a play and it was close. At the end, he made a good choice, we got an opportunity, it just didn’t fall,” Cook said.
Now the Camels will shift their focus to exacting revenge on Scott, the team that knocked them off last year as Jake Ohmer hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer in the corner to send the Eagles to Rupp.
The Camels were paced by Day’s 31 points as he knocked down 13-of-15 free throws and 4-of-7 3-pointers.
“Overtime victory. Nothing better than 10th Region basketball. It was a great atmosphere today,” Day said. “When the first shot went in and I hit another one, that’s when I knew I was feeling it today. I just tried to do what was best for the team and when I was open I just shot it."
Jolly added 17 with eight rebounds, while Wilson added 12 and Tanner Clos tossed in 10.
The loss ends their season at 29-5 on the year and will look to replace four seniors off this year’s roster in Philpot, Chase Taylor, Ryan Cooper and JJ Johnson.
“They’ve made Clark County basketball really good again. It’s got a lot of recognition state-wide, people understand it’s a program to be reckoned with and our seniors helped build that,” Cook said.
The Cardinals still have plenty of pieces returning though, starting with Graham and Canada.
“These kids will have motivation from this game. We’ve understood what it takes to try and play at a championship level. The offseason, the work, the mentality. I think all of our team cares about the seniors so I think they’ll want to be motivated to finish the job next year,” Cook said.
Graham led the Cardinals with 24 points, Philpot had 13 and 10 rebounds, Canada with 11 and 13 while Taylor added 10.