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CRESTWOOD – Last weekend’s John Fendley Classic had a special meaning for South Oldham.
Fourteen years ago Fendley’s wife, then-South principal Barbara Fendley, hired coach Steve Simpson.
Meanwhile John Fendley was a loyal supporter of Dragon and Lady Dragon basketball until his death in 2010.
Saturday night Barbara Fendley was back at South handing the inaugural tournament’s trophy to the Dragons after they beat Franklin County 72-61 in the championship game.
“Her coming back tonight and handing us the trophy, it meant a lot to her and meant a lot to me,” Simpson said.
The Dragons (8-1) had a tough road to the tournament title. Thursday they out-fought Christian Academy-Louisville 71-61. Friday they prevailed in a double-overtime thriller against Jeffersontown, 107-104. And Saturday they used a 21-9 third quarter advantage to hold off a big Flyers team.
For a group of seniors following in the wake of a team that won the school’s first Region 8 title last season, the tournament win was an important step, senior guard Kyle Young said.
“It’s the start of our legacy,” said Young, who scored a game-high 21 points Saturday. “Last year, that was all their wins, those seniors. So this is pretty much the first championship for our senior class.”
Friday’s game was the most exciting of the tournament, a high-scoring battle in which South had to overcome a 37-point performance by J’Town’s Brandon Johnson. Johnson’s biggest shot was a 3-pointer that tied the game, 92-92, at the end of the first overtime.
“Coach kept telling us to try to stop him and we kept trying to deny him the ball,” said senior Dragon guard Zack McWilliams, who scored 13 points off the bench. “He kept getting it and making shots. He’s a good player. You’ve got to credit him.”
But while the Chargers featured a one-man show, it was a cast of South characters that kept up.
Senior guard Drew Greenwood led the way with 25. Young and fellow senior guards Jonathan Blair and Michael Griffin, all of whom eventually fouled out, scored 22, 16 and 16 points respectively. Senior forward Drew Horsey scored just four points, but two of those came on a basket with a second left in the fourth quarter that tied the game at 82, sending it to overtime.
“It was one of the most exciting games I’ve played in,” Greenwood said. “It was a good game by both teams. It was just fun to play.”
South led 101-96 with less than a minute to play in double overtime after Blair hit two free throws.
But the Chargers didn’t go away. Senior J’Town guard Daniel Williams converted a 3-point play to make the score 101-99.
Seconds later Blair was called for his fifth foul. Khalid Minor hit one of two free throws, cutting South’s lead to 101-100 with 38.3 seconds left.
McWilliams hit a pair of free throws with 33.8 seconds left to push the lead to 103-100. But Williams took the ball right at McWilliams on the other end, drawing a foul. He hit his two free throws to make the score 103-102 with less than 30 seconds left.
The Chargers then stole the ball from Greenwood on the ensuing inbounds pass, but Johnson was called for a travel, turning the ball back over to South.
McWilliams once again came up clutch at the foul stripe, hitting two free throws with 15 seconds left to make the score 105-102.
J’Town coach Clay Moody and Simpson then traded full timeouts to strategize about the upcoming possession. With the Chargers needing a 3-pointer and Johnson having proven able to hit those, Simpson told his team to guard the perimeter. Greenwood did just that, slapping the ball away from Johnson as he went up for a shot.
“Coach was just telling us not to let him touch it,” Greenwood said. “If he did touch it we were supposed to guard the 3-point line. So I was just trying to get up on him. He put it right in front of me and I had my hand there.”
After swiping the ball from Johnson, Greenwood went down and hit two free throws, making the score 107-102 and ensuring the win. J’Town scored a layup as time expired to make the final margin three points.
Greenwood overcame some adversity Friday night, as he took a hand to the face in the second half and sported a puffy right eye after the game.
“His eye’s all busted up and he still makes a play,” McWilliams said of Greenwood. “That’s what it’s all about: making a play at the end.”
Greenwood again came up big Saturday in the title game.
The Flyers had cut South’s lead that was once 54-40 to just 58-51 midway through the fourth quarter.
But Greenwood pushed the lead to 64-51 with two straight 3-pointers from the same spot in the left corner. He finished the game with 15 points and the Flyers never seriously threatened the lead again.
“Me and Coach Simpson said that (Friday) was his breakout game,” Young said. “We encourage him to shoot. I don’t care where he is, I want him to shoot the ball… His shooting ability just helps our offense.”
South will head to Columbia this weekend to compete in the Lindsey Wilson College Holiday Classic. The Dragons will meet Caverna Thursday.
“To beat CAL and J’Town and Franklin County all back-to-back nights, I told them they made big believers out of me,” Simpson said. “I really feel a lot better about our team now than I did coming into the tournament. Hopefully we can continue this momentum on to Adair County.”
Jeffersontown – 18, 17, 28, 22, 7, 12 – 104
South Oldham – 18, 22, 23, 19, 7, 15 – 107
Jeffersontown – Johnson 37, Marshall 18, Williams 18, Jenkins 11, White 10, Stigall 6, Minor 3, Brown 1
South Oldham – Greenwood 25, Young 22, Blair 16, Griffin 16, McWilliams 13, Fields 5, Horsey 4, Bullock 3, Roy 3
South Oldham – 20, 13, 21, 18 – 72
Franklin County – 12, 19, 9, 21 – 61
South Oldham – Young 21, Greenwood 15, Blair 11, Griffin 9, Bullock 6, McWilliams 4, Fields 3, Roy 3
Franklin County – Rowe 20, Schneider 18, Wiley 12, Kennedy 7, Lee 4
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