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Hopkinsville ends South's season at Sweet 16

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By Brad Stephens

LEXINGTON – For the second straight year, Hopkinsville was just too much for South Oldham on the state's biggest stage.

Tra Edwards scored a game-high 30 points as the Tigers, ranked No. 1 in the state AP poll, beat the Dragons 83-62 Wednesday afternoon in the first round of the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys Sweet 16 at Rupp Arena.

Hoptown (31-2) took a 6-5 lead in the first quarter on an Edwards 3-point play and never looked back. The Tigers will play Trinity in the state quarterfinals Friday afternoon.

Wednesday marked South's second straight and second ever appearance in the Sweet 16. It also marked the Dragons' second straight time playing Hoptown at Rupp.

South (22-5) kept the score one point closer than last year's 74-52 Tiger win, but played better in the process this time around, coach Steve Simpson said.

“Coming here last year... our eyes were wide from being in Rupp and wide when we saw Hopkinsville,” Simpson said. “This year they were just wide about Hopkinsville.

“I thought we were used to the environment a little more. We executed better, we kept our poise better and I think Hopkinsville's better than they were last year.”

Edwards scored his 30 points on 10-of-17 shooting. That included a 9-of-13 mark on 2-point field goals, most of which came at the rim.

“We talked about (Edwards) in our scouting report,” Simpson said. “He's even quicker than we actually thought... I think as the week goes on you'll see why teams have trouble with him off the dribble.”

Forward Quan Poindexter scored 19 points for Hoptown. Guard Demarius Henry scored 15 points on five 3-pointers.

Forward Qualis Matlock, who scored 18 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in a first-round win against South last year, scored eight points and had 11 rebounds while battling foul trouble.

Henry hit four of his 3-pointers in the first quarter, helping the Tigers to a 23-15 lead after the first eight minutes.

Edwards' success penetrating and Henry's production from beyond the arc proved a deadly combination. Simpson adjusted his defense to a box-and-one for the purpose of stopping Henry, but that gave Edwards more lanes to the basket.

“I thought they were better in the post last year... but I thought they were better on the perimeter this year,” senior guard Michael Griffin said. “They had more shooters.”

Senior guard Kyle Young had a team-high 15 points for South in his final game. Fellow senior guards Jonathan Blair, Drew Greenwood and Griffin scored 14, 11 and 11 points, respectively.

They helped keep the Dragons within striking distance throughout the afternoon.

But foul trouble was big. Young, the team's leading scorer and best on-ball defender, picked up three fouls in the first half and his fourth less than two minutes into the third quarter.

Fatigue was also a negative factor for the Dragons, Greenwood said. Tired legs may have contributed to the team shooting just 7-of-29 from the perimeter, a 24.1 percent clip. South was 2-of-14 on 3-point shots while trying to mount a second half rally.

“I think our legs were getting a little bit tired,” Greenwood said. “We were getting open looks and a couple of times we had shots going in and out.

“We were just two or three 3's away from being right in it. That was important.”

Hoptown's size caused trouble for the Dragons. The Tigers out-rebounded South 42-26, grabbing 17 offensive boards.

Hoptown also had a 48-20 advantage on points in the paint.

“We did all we could,” senior guard Zach McWilliams said. “The game plan was to keep them off the boards and we didn't hit as many shots as we'd like to to stay in the game. But we fought hard and that's all you can ask for.”

South trailed 45-31 with 6:23 left in the third quarter when it made a run to try to get back in the game.

A 3-point play by Greenwood cut the margin to 45-34. Griffin answered a Matlock jumper with two free throws to make the score 47-36.

Another Griffin free throw and two foul shots by senior guard Drew Bullock trimmed the Hoptown lead to 47-39.

But a Matlock jumper and Henry 3 ended that run and stretched the Tiger lead to 52-39. The Dragons trailed by double-digits the rest of the way.

“I think we fought hard today,” Simpson said. “Hopkinsville is loaded. They're very athletic.

“...I thought our guys fought the entire time. I couldn't be more proud of our team.”

 

Hopkinsville – 23, 18, 15, 27 – 83

South Oldham – 15, 16, 12, 19 – 62

Hopkinsville – Edwards 30, Poindexter 19, Henry 15, Matlock 8, D. Cager 6, Ware 3, S. Cager 2

South Oldham – Young 15, Blair 14, Greenwood 11, Griffin 11, Bullock 7, McWilliams 4