Calloway at O'boro

Calloway County (in red) already is used to playing at the Owensboro SportsCenter this season. This image was taken at the start of the Lakers' game with Owensboro Catholic in December at the Independence Bank Classic.

MURRAY — Calloway County’s Kanyon Franklin snatched an offensive rebound and got fouled as he put it back in the basket with 5.9 seconds left in the championship game of the Kentucky Class 2A Section 1 Tournament on Monday. The senior point guard then sank the free throw and lifted the Lakers to a thrilling 72-70 victory over Hopkins County Central at Morganfield. Franklin’s big play earned Head Coach Brad Cleaver’s squad a trip today to the Owensboro SportsCenter for the Kentucky Class 2A Championships State Tournament.

The Lakers take the floor at 2 p.m. for their first-round matchup with traditional state power Mason County. Finding a way to finish off a quality opponent like Hop Central is an indication that this Lakers unit is blossoming. Calloway is sporting a four-game win streak that has Cleaver excited about the growth of his team.

“We are defending 2A sectional champions from 2020,” Cleaver said. “There was not a tournament in 2021 due to COVID-19. Playing for a 2A state title is a very exciting opportunity for our kids, our program, and our school. Our schedule has been a tough one and has prepared us for tournament play. I really love this team, they are fighters!”

Matthew Ray and Zach Hudgin each average 10 points per game. Ray averages more than nine rebounds per contest and that number has jumped well into double figures over the last six games. Hudgin pulls down six boards per game, while he and Drew Hudgin combine to make the tough plays necessary for the team. Kanyon Franklin is Calloway’s best perimeter defender, runs the Laker offense and is their top 3-point man at 49% from behind the arc. 

Cleaver likes what he has seen from his group of seniors.

“I am especially proud for the seniors and their chance to capitalize on such a great opportunity in their final season as a Laker,” Cleaver said. “The senior class is playing with a sense of urgency and confidence. Ray is playing at a very high level right now and the consistent winning plays from Hudgin and Franklin are phenomenal.”

Freshman guard Eli Finley averages 16 points per game to lead the Lakers in scoring and already possesses a strong mid-range game. Finley is also one of the state’s top free-throw shooters. Conner Lockhart and Jonah Butler give the Lakers added scoring punch as both are capable of scoring in bunches at all three levels. 

The early production from the talented trio of freshmen has Cleaver and his staff optimistic about the future for this squad.

“Butler, Lockhart and Finley are averaging 31 points per game,” Cleaver explained. “Led by Eli Finley at 16 points per contest, I forget that they are freshmen. Their growth from game-to-game is fun to coach. The consistently high-level play from Finley has been remarkable.”

Calloway’s come-from-behind win over Hop Central gave the Lakers a chance to participate in the state tournament after having the opportunity snatched away from them by COVID-19 last season. The Lakers’ reward for their repeat performance as Section 1 champions is a date with the 13-3 Mason County Royals of coach Brian Kirk.

The Royals defeated a solid Harrison County squad to win the Section 5 championship by a score of 68-57. Harrison entered that game on a four-game winning streak.

Terrell Henry is a 6’2” guard/forward with great athletic ability and a deft shooting touch. Henry is averaging 23.5 points and six rebounds per game, while connecting on 64% of his field-goal attempts and 43% of his 3-point shots. Nate Mitchell is a crafty left-handed point guard that brings in a 16 points per game average while also creating opportunities for his teammates.

Kirk’s squad averages 69 points per game and the Royal offense has been extremely efficient. The team hits 50% of its shots from the field overall and more than 34% from behind the 3-point line.

Mason mirrors Calloway in a lot of ways. The Royals and Lakers play at an almost identical pace. Each squad has attempted approximately 800 shots from the field and an identical 306 shots from behind the arc.

If the Lakers can beat the Royals, they face Adair County or Lexington Catholic in the semifinals. Lex Cath is widely considered to be one of the best teams in the state overall. 

“Watching us gel together as a team,” Cleaver said. “and having this opportunity to compete for a 2A state title is rewarding.”