LaPlata Repeats As North Shelby Boy’s Tournament Champ
By David Sharp
Fourth seeded LaPlata (9-2) was able to dictate the pace of the boys’ championship game of the 21st Annual North Shelby Tournament until the final minutes and upset second seed Knox County (9-5) by a 60-55 margin.
The Eagles jumped out to an 8-3 lead and trailed by as many as 12 points in the fourth quarter.
Keenan Gillaspy tossed in two Knox County home run balls in the last two minutes, helping fuel a furious Eagle rally that came up short of extending Knox County’s six game winning streak.
LaPlata extended their North Shelby Tournament boys’ winning streak to five seasons. The Bulldogs kept the ball away from Knox County’s powerful post players much of the game.
“I thought we scrambled and fought for everything we got,” said LaPlata coach David Fouch.
“They are bigger and stronger man for man right down the line. Give Knox County kids credit. They were down 12 points and came storming back.”
“They made it a game at the end. We were fortunate enough to hold on for the win,” said Fouch.
The teams turned the ball over 20 times each. Knox County held a 12-9 advantage in steals. The Eagles stole the ball six times in the final eight minutes.
The Eagles opened up a 41-35 overall rebounding advantage. Knox County doubled LaPlata’s rebound total 10-5 in the fourth quarter.
Knox County pulled down seven offensive boards in the fourth quarter and did not allow LaPlata a fourth period second shot.
Curtiss Bunch capped a 10-4 LaPlata run with a driving field goal with 1:17 remaining in the first quarter, erasing the KCHS 8-3 lead. The bucket put LaPlata up 13-12. Keenan Gillaspy fired in a home run ball, putting Knox County up 15-13 with 25 seconds remaining in period one.
The Eagles took their two point edge to the second quarter. LaPlata took the ball at the Eagle defense and outscored Knox County 16-6 in the second quarter for a 29-21 halftime lead.
Two time all stater Dennis Dent picked up two fouls and had to sit out several first half minutes. The Bulldogs plugged the lane with a 2-3 zone defense, bringing their guards back to double the post.
Knox County turned the tables and took the basketball at the tough Bulldog defense in the final minutes of the third period.
Justin Reeves sank a free throw at the 2:50 point of the third quarter. Reeves missed the second try. He followed the shot for a spectacular KCHS field goal trimming the LaPlata lead to 33-28. Dennis Dent sank a free throw 21 seconds later for a 33-29 deficit.
Jordan Smith finished a set of great Bulldog ball movement with a home run ball and a 36-29 lead with 1:49 showing on the third quarter clock. LaPlata took a 38-29 lead to the fourth quarter.
Taylor Wheeler drove the lane for a 47-37 Bulldog lead with 5:28 to play in the game. LaPlata extended the margin to 51-39.
Dennis Dent lit the fuse for the last ditch KCHS rally with a bucket at the 4:18 mark of period four, cutting the LaPlata lead back to 51-41.
The lane was no place for the faint of heart. Lucas Hudson followed his shot and pulled the Eagles within a 51-43 margin at the 2:52 mark of the fourth quarter.
Curtiss Bunch scored with two minutes to play in the game. Keenan Gillaspy tossed in a three pointer at the 1:48 mark for a 53-48 deficit.
Brett Wilkerson stole the ball for Knox County. The Eagle coaching staff and fans howled when Dennis Dent picked up an offensive foul, his fourth. Dent cut the LaPlata lead to 55-52 with 68 seconds to play in the game. Taylor Wheeler fouled out on the play.
LaPlata extended their lead to 58-52. The Bulldogs missed two free throws late in the game. LaPlata sank 11 of 19 at the line for 58%. Knox County connected on seven of 14 at the charity stripe for 50%.
Keenan Gillaspy kept the Eagle hopes alive with a clutch three pointer at the 30 second mark. LaPlata led 58-55.
Knox County had two chances to tie the game and another two point try. Brett Wilkerson had another key KCHS steal in the final 30 seconds.
LaPlata held their three point lead with 7.8 seconds showing on the clock. Curtiss Bunch grabbed a rebound and sealed LaPlata’s fifth straight title with two free throws.
Knox County was 44% from the field (18-41) and 4-18 from three point range for 22%. LaPlata was 20-40 from the field and 3-17 (18%) from the three point line. The Eagles had a 12-9 edge in total steals, a 16-11 lead in assists and blocked four shots to one for LaPlata.
LaPlata was able to build enough of a fourth quarter lead to win the game. Curtiss Bunch had a great night for LaPlata. Bunch scored a game high 24 points and pulled down 18 rebounds.
Jordan Smith scored 15 Bulldog points. Taylor Wheeler was in double figures with 13 points along with five rebounds.
“We made a great run at the end, but you have to come out with intensity,” said Knox County coach Jesse Crawford. “Kudos to them, they played well. They played hard. We settled for jump shots early when we should have been taking it to the basket.”
“It’s tough to come back when a team has four good guards like (LaPlata).”
“It stings,” said Coach Crawford. “We just didn’t play well enough defensively.”
Dennis Dent led Knox County with 15 points and nine rebounds. Lucas Hudson had 12 points and seven boards.
Keenan Gillaspy fired in 11 points and dished out a game high six assists. Justin Reeves scored nine points with ten rebounds. Mitchel Penn scored six points with nine boards.
Brett Wilkerson scored two points and dished out four assists, three in the fourth quarter. Wilkerson led the Eagles with four fourth quarter steals.