MORGANFIELD —-The Calloway County Lakers boys’ basketball team traveled to Union County on Saturday for a date with Webster County in the semifinals of the Kentucky Class 2A Sectional 1 Tournament.
Webster advanced to face Calloway with a triple-overtime win in the first round of the tournament. However, Matthew Ray helped the Lakers get their tournament started in style with 20 points and 14 rebounds in a hard-earned 59-44 victory over the Trojans.
Calloway (9-6) found themselves in an aggressive, physical contest from the tip that will help prepare them for postseason play. Both teams competed hard with a berth in the championship game on the line. The high-intensity action included three technical fouls and 41 free-throw attempts between the two teams.
Despite only shooting one free throw in the first half, Calloway earned its way to the charity stripe 19 times in the game. Webster got to the line 22 times, but only converted on nine attempts, while the Lakers knocked down 17.
Head Coach Brad Cleaver’s squad was at its best with the game hanging in the balance. The Lakers sank 13 of their 14 fourth-quarter free throws.
Eli Finley made seven of his eight fourth-quarter free throws, while Ray connected on all four of his freebies and Jonah Butler made both of his attempts in the final frame. Cleaver was pleased with Calloway’s 89% free-throw shooting for the game and its efficiency at winning time.
“Our ability to knock down our free throws down the stretch was key,” Cleaver said. “Mathew Ray is playing as good as I’ve seen him play. He did everything but keep the score and the clock tonight.”
Ray’s afternoon was nearly perfect. The Calloway forward made all four of his free throws and eight of his nine field-goal attempts as he recorded yet another double-double. Ray is on a rebounding binge lately and has averaged 16 rebounds per game since the Lakers made their trip to Ashland for the Ashland Invitational in late December.
Finley used his outstanding mid-range game and free-throw shooting to contribute 16 points. The efforts of several other Calloway players who did not score as many points as Finley and Ray were critical in helping the Lakers advance.
Cleaver heaped praise on several players after the game.
“Jonah Butler had eight boards tonight,” Cleaver said. “He played well on both sides of the floor with seven points and eight rebounds. Zach Hudgin and Kanyon Franklin were phenomenal defensively.”
Calloway was mired in a one-point game halfway through the first quarter when Cleaver made a change. The Lakers switched from their trademark man-to-man defense to a zone and it seemed to confuse the Trojans. Webster only scored on one of their next 12 possessions as the Lakers opened up a 10-point cushion that proved to be too much to overcome.
The Lakers will now travel back to Union County to face Hopkins County Central at 7:45 tonight. The Storm defeated Paducah Tilghman, 81-69, in the other semifinal game on Saturday.