Eagles Battle To Boys’Championship Game
By David Sharp
Knox County overcame a strong Tiger rebounding effort and a fine Canton team and advanced to the Class 2 District 6 boys’ championship game with a 64-59 victory. Both teams played a tough, intense game. The Eagles made plays in the second half securing the victory.
Second seeded Knox County improved to 18-9 on the season securing the best KCHS varsity boys basketball win total since the 1994-95 season.
The Eagles will face Westran (14-11) in the district championship game. The Hornets upset top seeded and state ranked Paris (21-6) in overtime by a 67-64 margin during the first February 28 boys’ district semi-final game.
Canton shot the ball well from the perimeter, especially during the first half. Justin Ellison and Josh Fellinger tossed five three pointers through the Cotton Fitzsimmons Arena on the MACC campus hoops during the first two quarters.
The Tigers rebounded well and led early in the contest. Justin Ellison and Dennis Dent traded three balls early in the second quarter. The teams battled to a 13 all first period stalemate.
Zach Parrish gave Knox County a 19-16 lead with a three ball at the 4:50 mark of the second quarter. The Eagles took a 23-19 lead when Ethan Hustead powered home a field goal with 3:40 showing on the second quarter clock.
Zach Parrish made a play for Knox County when he tossed the ball through the hoop after a wrestling match with Canton defender Nathan Uhlmeyer. The 12 footer capped a 6-1 KCHS run to a 25-19 lead with three minutes to play in the first half.
True to the close game’s form, Canton battled back from a 27-21 Knox County lead gained when Cory Shultz scored at the 2:35 mark of the first half.
Josh Fellinger fired in a home run ball followed ten seconds later by Justin Ellison stealing the basketball and scoring for a 27-26 Eagle edge with two minutes remaining until intermission.
Knox County answered with the next four points. Josh Fellinger canned another three pointer pulling the Tigers within a 31-29 halftime deficit. The game heated up after halftime. Fans could have used some of that warmth to melt ice and snow that fell in the Northeast corner of the state earlier in the afternoon.
Tiger freshman Colt Carper tied the game at 37 with four minutes remaining in the third quarter. Canton took a 39-37 lead. Daniel McMahon answered with a Knox County three snapping a 39 all tie. Knox County led 42-39 with 2:48 to play in the period.
Knox County junior Lucus Hudson came off the bench and nailed a momentum shifting three pointer with 28 seconds showing on the third quarter clock. The Eagles led 45-39 at the time.
Canton earned more second chances than the Eagles. The Tigers hammered home an offensive rebound trimming the KCHS lead to 45-41 entering the fourth quarter.
Justin Ellison quickly pulled Canton within 45-44 margin by tossing in a home run ball 40 seconds into the fourth quarter. Daniel McMahon and Ellison traded buckets. Justin Ellison tied the game at 49 with another three ball. Dennis Dent scored with five minutes to play in regulation time, putting the Eagles up 51-49.
Knox County shot the ball well in the second half. It was a good thing considering Canton was not allowing many second shots until late in the game.
Lucus Hudson and Dennis Dent sank Knox County free throws for a 54-50 Eagle lead with 4:15 remaining. Canton all district forward Drew Ayers sank a field goal at the four minute mark and canned two free throws with 2:55 on the clock for a 54 all tie.
Cory Shultz took charge and drove the baseline for a 56-54 Eagle lead with 2:27 to play in the game. Drew Ayers answered for the Tigers with a free throw at the two minute mark.
Drew Ayers grabbed two offensive rebounds and converted the second shot to a 57-56 Canton lead with 1:31 remaining in regulation time. Ayers missed a key Tiger free throw on the play.
Dennis Dent put the Eagles back on top with a three point play at the 1:16 venue of the fourth quarter by a 59-57 score. Justin Ellison tossed in two pressure packed Tiger free throws for a 59-59 tie with 65 seconds on the clock.
Lucus Hudson stepped up again and sank what proved to be the game winning field goal with 45 seconds to play in the game. Knox County led 61-59.
“Lucus (Hudson) came in and hit that three like he had been playing all year,” said Jesse Crawford. “We have been looking for that fifth guy. Lucus Hudson has tremendous athletic ability.”
“He lost some of his basketball sense when he didn’t play last year. He got that offensive rebound and put back late in the game. He guarded Colt Carper in the fourth quarter. You could never tell that he was limited in his minutes all season long.”
“Our overall effort was great,” said Knox County coach Jesse Crawford. “Our three headed monster came through for us. Daniel McMahon hit 17 points. Cory Shultz played out of his mind again.”
“We went to the glass and hit our free throws down the stretch,” said Crawford. “I can’t say enough about the guys. We are not going to get satisfied until we get to Columbia. We are three wins away. We are going to look no farther than Saturday. Westran is going to be tough. They have won nine of their last ten games. We hope to win our first district title in 37 years.”
The intense game was far from over. The teams battled tooth and nail. Zach Parrish rebounded a Colt Carper miss with 16 seconds remaining in the game. One of the Eagles’ best free throw shooters missed two charity tosses. Parrish atoned for the missed opportunity when he hustled around the lane and grabbed the rebound of the second miss.
Daniel McMahon sank one of two free throws with 9.6 seconds to play in the game for a 62-59 Eagle lead. Canton tossed in seven three pointers during the game to four Knox County home run balls.
Drew Ayers grabbed another Tiger offensive board. Ayers missed a free throw. Dennis Dent rebounded for the Eagles. Daniel McMahon salted the game away with a pair of Knox County free throws with 3.7 seconds to play in the game.
Both teams left everything they had on the court. Knox County took two of three Northeast Missouri Class 2 heavyweight battles with the Tigers this season. Canton was ranked in the state earlier in this campaign. Canton won a home game by three points. The Eagles won the Highland Tournament game between the schools by three points and the all important district match by five.
“We knew from our two previous games that it would be like this,” said Canton head coach Andy Anderson. “I don’t think we played smart enough basketball to win tonight. They made a couple more plays than we did.”
“Drew Ayers played on one leg most of the season,” said Coach Anderson of his senior leader. “He would have been better than what he showed tonight had he been healthy. We did a good job blocking Knox County off the boards. Both teams executed what they wanted tonight. They just made a couple more shots than we did.”
Both teams did a good job of defending without putting their opponent on the free throw line. Canton sank 8-13 from the line while the Eagles made 11-19 from the charity stripe. Knox County attempted six free throws while Canton was fouling late in the game to get the ball back.
Justin Ellison earned game scoring honors with 30 Tiger points. Drew Ayers scored eight of his ten points in the fourth quarter before fouling out late in the game. Josh Fellinger scored eight points. Colt Carper tossed in seven second half points and Josh Lee added four Canton points.
Daniel McMahon led three Eagles in double figures with 17 points. Cory Shultz scored four points in each quarter and finished with 16 Knox County points. Dennis Dent was in double figures with 14 points.
Zach Parrish scored seven Eagle points. Lucas Hudson scored six key second half points. Mitchel Penn and Ethan Hustead added two Knox County points each.