Storm hang on to beat Butler, 91-86

Jesse May eld-Sheehan, The Messenger

Hopkins County Central senior DaMontae Barnhill (10) goes up for a shot during Friday’s game against Butler County. Barnhill finished with 20 points, seven rebounds and six assists as the Storm beat the Bears, 91-86.

MORGANTOWN — Hopkins County Central boys’ basketball coach Lee James has said throughout the season that to his team, the next game is the most important game in the state. And the Storm sure played like it on Friday. 

Despite already having the top seed in

the upcoming district tournament wrapped

up, and despite already having claimed

their first 20-win season since 2008-09,

the Central boys fought tooth-and-nail to

win their regular season fi nale over Butler

County, 91-86.

“I thought we gutted it out,” James

said. “I am proud of them for being tough,

mentally and physically. That was a good

basketball team we played, they’re very

physical, they’re very strong, they shot the

lights out.

“They were 11 for 24 from the threepoint

line, and when you have a team that

shoots it that well and you can get away

from their gym with a win, that’s a good

night.”

The Storm (21-9) entered the fourth

quarter with a six-point lead, and were still

up 86-79 with 1:46 left in the contest.

But the Bears (11-14) came back, going

on a 5-1 run on the back of some costly

offensive miscues by Central to come within

three points with less than a minute to

play.

“That’s very unlike us,” James said.

“That’s something we’ll go in the gym and

work on. Pressure hasn’t bothered us all

year. I just think it was uncharacteristic of

us, we made passes that we just don’t ever

make. Their pressure was good, but I think

(the miscues) were self-infl icted.”

Senior DaMontae Barnhill went to the

line for the Storm on the next possession

and made both free throws, but Butler

scored on its next possession as well to get

back within three with just 20 seconds left.

After Central turned it over again on a

bad inbound pass, the Bears had a chance

to tie the game, but missed twice, as Barnhill

came down with the rebound and

made two more free throws on the other

end to seal the win.

Free throws and rebounding turned out

to be big keys for the Storm, as they shot

25-of-30 as a team from the charity stripe

and outrebounded Butler 36-21.

“If you can shoot 83 percent from

the free throw line and you outrebound

your opponent by 15, most nights you’re

going to win,” James said. “(This game)

was a good example of that, because we

played a really good team that shot the

ball extremely well, but we did those two

things and were able to pull out the win.”

Just getting the lead by the end of the

game was a task in and of itself for Central.

Within the fi rst three and a half minutes

of the game, the Bears had a 12-5 lead,

courtesy of an 8-0 run. But James called

a timeout, made some adjustments, and

from there the Storm outscored Butler

16-11 to fi nish the quarter down just two

points.

“We made a couple adjustments offensively

and defensively,” James said. “We

changed up on them and started having

a little success with a defense that they’d

probably never seen us run before, and I

think that bothered them a little bit.”

The two teams went back and forth

throughout most of the second quarter

but Central fi nally found its rhythm down

in the stretch, fi nishing the half on a 12-0

run to go into the break with a 45-36 lead,

a lead that would be held for the rest of the

game.

“We finished, we made shots,” James

said. “I felt like we had some looks early

that just kind of didn’t go for us and we

passed up some good looks early, and

towards the end of the half, everybody

relaxed a little bit and they fi nished on the

offensive end.”

Seniors Kyle Slate and

Mason Burgett shared the

scoring lead for the Storm,

each putting up 22 points,

while Barnhill finished

with 20 of his own.

Slate also had a doubledouble

with 13 rebounds,

had a team-leading three

steals, and was a perfect

7-of-7 from the line. Burgett

was also perfect from

the line at 4-of-4, while also

pulling down five boards

and hitting four shots from

beyond the arc.

“Mason hit clutch

shots, he hit shots when

we really needed them,”

James said. “You hear of

people scoring a ‘quiet 22,’

his wasn’t quiet, he scored

them when we needed

them.”

Meanwhile, Barn -

hill finished with seven

rebounds and a teamleading

six assists while

going 8-of-10 from the line,

including the four free

throws needed at the end

to win the game.

“DaMontae did his normal

thing, when we had

to have something, he

took the ball and he got it

done,” James said. “They

tried to jump him and get

the ball out his hands, and

when they did, Mason

stepped up and hit big

shots, and if anything got

loose under the basket,

Kyle cleaned it up.”

With this win, Central

finishes the regular season

on a five-game win

streak, its four th such

streak of the season.

But typical of James, he

said the past is the past,

and right now his team is

focused on what’s ahead:

next week’s Seventh District

Tournament.

“We talked early in the

season about how there’s

three parts to a basketball

season, there’s preseason,

there’s regular season

and there’s postseason,”

James said. “I congratulate

my guys on what they did

during the regular season,

but we’re 0-0 come next

week, and (the win streak)

means nothing. We have

to go in and prepare like

we’re facing the number

one team in the state,

regardless of who our next

opponent may be.”

The Storm’s next opponent

is set to be Dawson

Springs in the first round

of the District Tournament

on Tuesday. The game is

scheduled to be played at

Madisonville-North Hopkins

at 6 p.m.

CENTRAL 21-24-25-21—91

BUTLER 23-13-28-22—86

Hopkins County Central (91) – Slate 22,

Burgett 22, Barnhill 20, Almon 6, Mann 5,

Porter 4, James 4, Moore 2, Stringer 2,

Bergant 2

Butler County (86) – Moore 26, Henderson

12, Anderson 12, Grubb 11, Beasley 10,

Graham 7, Embry 3, Dean 2, Flener 1

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