UHA scored the first ten points of the game and raced out to a 25-8 lead after one quarter. Trigg County outscored the Blazers in each of the final three quarters but could never get closer than four points after the initial blitz.
UHA pounced on the Wildcats hard and quick in the first 90 seconds of the game, jumping out to a 10-0 lead while Trigg County turned the basketball over four times in their first five possessions.
“The first quarter killed us. I think we got caught up in everything, and didn’t run our sets. We took too many quick shots,” Wildcat head coach Bill Chumbler said after the game.
Joshua Mack again proved to be the catalyst for another quick Blazer start, scoring 19 of his 24 points in the first half, including 11 in the first quarter as UHA built a 27-8 lead that left the Wildcat faithful stunned.
“Mack had a phenomenal game. We couldn’t contain him in the first half, and he beat us off the dribble most of the night,” Chumbler noted.
Down by 19 points, the Wildcats appeared to awakened and countered with an 11-0 run to actually get the deficit inside of single-digits.
Rodney Davis scored nine straight points – four from the free throw line – and T.J. O’Hara’s steal and dunk brought the Wildcats to within 27-19.
After UHA extended the lead back to 12 points, Davis canned a 3-pointer with 1:14 to draw Trigg to within 35-26, but the Blazers scored four straight points for a 39-26 lead at intermission.
Davis, who scored 20 points in the second quarter of Trigg County’s win over Providence the previous night, again had a strong second quarter, scoring 12 of his team-high 20 points in the frame.
The Wildcats missed a golden opportunity midway through the third quarter to make it a two-possession game when they misfired on three in-close shots on one trip down the floor and turned the ball over on their next two. UHA responded with the next six points to go up 51-37.
The Wildcats finished with a season-high 22 turnovers that led to 26 Blazer points and proved to be the difference in the game.
UHA led 65-54 with 4:21 left in the game before the Wildcats made one final run.
Trigg County scored seven straight points – punctuated by Jeremy Jones grabbing a missed shot and racing the length of the floor for a soaring dunk to bring the Wildcats to within 65-60 with 1:15 left.
Davis hit one of two free throws with 1:05 left, but the Wildcats misfired on their next three shots, and UHA did just enough at the free throw line to claim their third straight All-A region title and 13th in the 17-year history of the tournament.
Trigg County missed the inside presence of Russell Mackins, who moved back to Illinois earlier in the week. UHA outscored the Wildcats 34-24 in the paint and held a 44-39 advantage on the glass.
Jones led the Wildcats on the boards with 12, to go with 16 points, and O’Hara added 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Jamaal Boyd was the fourth Wildcat to score in double-figures with 12 points.
UHA’s Patrick Metcalfe controlled the paint for the Blazers, avoiding foul trouble to finish with 15 points and 16 rebounds. Justin Haskins added 15 points and 11 rebounds.
While neither team shot better than 39-percent from the field, the Wildcats missed a chance to capitalize on a nine free throw advantage over the Blazers, hitting just 16-of-28 for 57-percent – their season average.
“Free throws don’t lose every game, but when you miss them, they lose every close game. They could have made a difference,” said Chumbler.
UHA improved to 17-3 with the win, their third in the title game over Trigg County in the past five years.
The Wildcats, who have been eliminated from the All-A region tournament by the eventual region champion each of the last six years, fell to 13-4. Three of the four losses have come when the Wildcats have played on back-to-back days like last Saturday.
“There were so many things we could have done better to win that game. Hopefully, we will meet this team down the road again,” said Chumbler. “I think we’ll bounce back and be ready to play the final month.”