MURRAY — With under 20 seconds left on the clock and the Lakers down to Marshall County by one point, Cade Butler took the ball and made a shot he will likely never forget. He drove to his right and finished in traffic between two defenders to give Calloway the lead. That layup would go down as the game-winner as the Lakers forced a three-quarter court heave by Harmon at the buzzer and held on for the win, 72-71.
It was a gutsy play and it all started in the huddle when Butler told his head coach, Brad Cleaver, that he wanted the ball.
“The design was Cade Butler said, ‘Coach I want the basketball,’ and we were in the huddle and where our team is right now, so unselfish, I said, ‘Cade Butler wants the basketball,’ and everybody said, ‘Let’s roll,’” Cleaver said. “It’s that simple…They’re the ones out there, not me and they are telling me how things are going and that’s ultimately where I want the players that play for me to be at…so when a player has got it going and says I want the ball, we give it to him, and all of the other guys agreed. That’s the beautiful thing about team basketball.”
That was the difference in the game too, as the Lakers had multiple players score in double figures. Butler finished with 15, Kade Mize scored 17, Chandler Steele led the team with 23, Ki Franklin had 11, and Jarrett Darnell scored six as a starter. The Lakers got zero points off the bench but it didn’t matter. They were shorthanded without Evan Garrison and played their hearts out on the court.
Meanwhile, the Marshals were essentially a one-man wrecking crew. Zion Harmon broke the Jeffrey Gymnasium single-game scoring record with 50 points. That record had stood since 1968 when Stan Key set it at 46 points. It was matched in 1971 by David Davis of Benton, but now in the 59th season in the Jeff, the record has been broken albeit in a loss.
“A guy like that can go off at any time and it’s hard to predict that,” Cleaver said. “They have some other very capable weapons out there that we were worried about as well. We just wanted to stick to our gameplay and if he gets hot and goes off, he gets hot and goes off. We do the best we can and control what we can control.”
It seemed as though the gameplan involved taking away those other weapons and making sure they weren’t the ones that beat them. On top of that, the communication on defense was stellar from player to player and from coach to player.
“We had a gameplan and our gameplan was to focus on us and what we can do and what we can control,” Cleaver said. “Our real focus was on communication and just trying to continue to improve in that area. We knew Zion was capable of going for a big night and we were prepared for that. Hats off to Marshall, they are a really good basketball team.”
One of the most vocal coaches on the sidelines last night was Austin Wynn. In the first half, he could be heard calling out plays before they were run by the Marshals. It helped the defense get in position to make a play.
“I can’t give enough credit to my coaches,” Cleaver said. “Austin Wynn is putting in unbelievable work right now and I just want to lift that coach up. He is just phenomenal. The work and effort he is putting in is awesome. I’m so thankful for my assistant coaches. They’re unbelievable.”
“I wake up at about 5:30 a.m. and start watching film,” Wynn said. “Every time I’ve got a planning period at the middle school I watch film, and the region is so tough to scout for because different teams come with different gameplans, like tonight. You’ve got to be able to adjust to the gameplans. You see stuff on film but it might be different on the court. I’ve got to be able to read that.”
Wynn added that scouting is by far his favorite thing to do because it helps him prepare his guys for what the opponent wants to do and it can have a big impact on the game.
“I think it helps a lot because our kids look at me when I say something and they are like, ‘Oh this is right,’” Wynn said. “Ki Franklin told me a long time ago, he said, ‘You know Coach Wynn, everything you say is right. You watch the film and you help us out and we do appreciate it,’ and Chandler (Steele) has told me plenty of times he appreciates it and I just love being around here and helping these guys out. These guys have been a part of my heart for a long time and the best thing I can do is help them win a ball game.”
The win is a big confidence boost for the Lakers as they look ahead to the district tournament and the rest of the region has been put on notice.