SALYERSVILLE - Brady Whitaker poured in a game-high 44 points to lead host Magoffin County past Johnson Central 84-81 in a 57th District boys' basketball game on Thursday night (Feb. 1).
Whitaker, one of the 15th Region's most underrated boys' basketball players, scored 39 points in the second half. He was 11-of-12 from the free throw line during the district affair.
With the win, Magoffin County improved to 6-17 overall and in the 57th District.
Johnson Central slipped to 11-12 overall and 2-2 in the district with the loss.
The determined Hornets battle back to win. Magoffin County faced a 14-point deficit at halftime.
"It was great to see what the coaches have been telling the kids all season long pay off - that is 'never give up,'" Magoffin County Coach Scott Castle said, following his team's thrilling district win over perennial 15th Region title contender Johnson Central. "You never know when good luck will peck you on the shoulder and tell you it's your turn to win. When it happens, you have to be willing to embrace the moment and capitalize. That they did."
The Hornets continue to show improvement on the hardwood.
"These boys have improved at a fairly consistent pace over the last month or so," Castle confided. "We have had so many close games until the last three or four minutes that just seem to get away from us where the final score did not reflect the game at all. However, consistent play by all nine players that played was the difference in this game. It was a team effort the second half as we trailed by 14 at half. Brady Whitaker was on fire the second half. But how about this. Credit goes to the guards for pushing the ball in transition and finding him (Brady) in transition. If we don’t push the ball and get the defense to scramble, we allow them to deny Brady the ball and now we are searching for other players to score. Why not find the hot hand and keep finding a way to get the ball to him? Kudos to our team for their willingness to make a concerted effort to find and deliver Brady the ball at the right moment. Brady’s shot selection was unbelievable as was his consistency. Kind of reminds me of a girl I watch play at UPIKE.
"Anyone that knows basketball and watched this game would agree it was a total team effort on both the defensive end and offensive end of the floor in the second half. Deserved, earned, fought for, whatever you want to say, this team got it done. The coaches and I love this team and are looking forward to meeting Paintsville in the (57th) District Tournament."
Nolan Arnett accompanied Whitaker in double figures for the Hornets, scoring 14 points.
Dylan Arnett scored eight points and Logan Lovely tossed in seven points as part of the Hornets' district triumph.
In other individual scoring for Magoffin County, Morgan Howard delivered four points, Isaiah Salyer registered three points and Mason Lovely finished with two points.
Magoffin County overcame 17 turnovers to notch the district win.
Johnson Central shot 50.9 percent (27-of-53) from the field. The Golden Eagles were 10-of-25 (40 percent) from 3-point range.
Johnson Central shot 89.5 percent (17-of-19) from the free throw line.
The Golden Eagles were able to outrebound the Hornets 26-19.
Jacob Rice paced Johnson Central with a team-high 25 points. Johnson Central featured three scorers in double figures as Isaiah May added 18 points and Gabe Ferral finished with 13 points.
Cory VanHoose contributed nine points and Dalton Collins six points for the Golden Eagles in the loss.
Rounding out the Johnson Central individual scoring, Dawson Burton and John King chipped in two points apiece.
Both Magoffin County and Johnson Central will take the floor in the 57th District Boys' Basketball Tournament later in the week.