MURRAY — There was 2:36 left in the Sectional Championship, and all Jackson Chapman had to do was step on the court. The crowd went absolutely wild. Chapman blushed and had the biggest grin on his face. He was glad to be back on the court again.
Yes, the Lakers were thrilled to be named the Sectional Champions after dishing out a 62-43 win against Trigg County, but they were even more thrilled to have their teammate back after him taking time off because of heart complications.
“It was emotional,” said head coach Brad Cleaver. “He’s such a great kid that’s been through so much. We never thought he would be back out here. It was a blessing to be able to get him in the game.”
The Lakers started off the roller coaster of a night a little bit rusty offensively. Trigg had delivered a 6-1 lead in the first three minutes of the game, but Calloway eventually turned the score around and ended the first 11-8.
“I felt like we were tight,” Cleaver said. “Then, coming out of the third quarter, they started relaxing a little bit and started attacking the basket. They loosened up quite a bit, and then we were able to stretch it out.”
Heading into the fourth, the Lakers were up 53-30, and once the score reached 60-33 after two field goals from Evan Garrison, it was obvious that Calloway had control of the game. That’s when Chapman came in. Not only did he have the opportunity to step on the court with his teammates again, but he also contributed to the win. With 2:07 left in the game, Chapman laid in his first shot of the season.
“Watching him score and seeing a smile on his face, that’s why we all do what we do is to see those moments that are big for these kids,” Cleaver said. “Hopefully, it will be something they remember. Hopefully, tonight will be a memory they always cherish, it will be for me.”
Emotions and offense aside, once again, it was the Lakers’ killer defense that secured the win.
“It was our defense that got us to this game, and it was our defense that won this game for us,” Cleaver said. “We held them to 22 points the first half. Midway through the third quarter, we held them to one point.”
One athlete in particular led the team defensively on Saturday.
“Ki Franklin is such an energy guy,” Cleaver said. “He was so big in these two games. He really increases the energy of our ball club all the way around. High energy and good defense usually put you in good ball games.”
Such tight defense allowed Cleaver to let some JV kids come off the bench in the final minutes of the fourth quarter.
“It was good to get them in, and I thought they did fine,” Cleaver said. “It’s a big game. Everyone’s excited, and they got in, and they did fine.”
But Calloway wasn’t done once the buzzer sounded. They had their celebrations and cut down their net, but then they were already thinking about the state quarterfinals that will take place in Owensboro on Thursday. The Lakers will face off against Lexington Catholic at 5 p.m.
“We’ll start prep tonight,” Cleaver said. “If we continue to stay solid on defense and just make that our primary focus, the offense will come. That’s now a staple of our ball club. We can control how we play defensively every single night, and that needs to continue to be our focus.”