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LEWISPORT — Call it the change that will haunt the Meade County Green Wave and veteran coach Jerry Garris for a long time.
It was a move designed to take away perimeter shots from Breckinridge County, but it backfired in a big way Friday night.
During a timeout in the fourth quarter, Garris switched up defenses – going from man-to-man to a zone – and the Fighting Tigers took advantage by making three 3-pointers in a 55-second span which sparked them to a 70-60 win in the Boys’ 11th District Basketball Tournament championship game at Hancock County.
The Green Wave (10-20) changed to a 1-2-2 zone – a defense they hadn’t used since a loss to Ohio County on Feb. 1. So why did Garris use it against the Fighting Tigers?
“We put them on the free throw line a lot, and that’s why I went zone,” Garris said. “There’s no doubt I regret it. I don’t know if it would have made any difference, but I screwed up. It just took all the life out of us. You could just see it in the kids. We got down and you could just see them deflate.”
Meade County couldn’t recover after junior Chris Morgan and seniors Neil Critchelow and Kody Hughes hit the 3s to give Breckinridge County (21-7) a 62-54 lead with 2:50 to play.
The move didn’t work the way Garris hoped it would for his team, which had matched the Fighting Tigers point-for-point in a back-and-forth game until that stretch. The Green Wave even took a 48-42 lead on a basket by senior Bryce Garris at the start of the fourth quarter.
But Breckinridge County rallied every time it fell behind and seized momentum when it mattered most. The Fighting Tigers were able to find the open spots on the perimeter to turn the game around.
“I don’t know why we wanted to switch defenses,” said Bryce Garris, who scored a game-high 27 points. “We just needed to stay in man. They hit those 3s and took all the momentum and all the life out of us. We just couldn’t get back in the game.”
The third meeting this season between the longtime rivals proved to be one of the best – until the fourth quarter, at least.
The game featured 11 ties and 12 lead changes. Meade County had three six-point leads in the second half, while the Fighting Tigers’ biggest lead before the fourth quarter was 16-10 in the first period.
Meade County got a boost from junior guard Zeb Wilson, who scored seven of his 15 points before halftime. He gave the Green Wave a 27-26 lead at the half, then helped them stretch their advantage to 44-38 with 2:16 left in the third on consecutive layups.
“When Zeb does what he did tonight, and when Bryce gets help scoring, we can be pretty good,” Jerry Garris said. “Zeb does a good job driving to the basket, and that’s what he needs to do. He likes to stand out there at the 3-point line, but he’s quick enough that when he attacks the basket, he’s pretty good.”
The Fighting Tigers pulled within 44-42 before Bryce Garris scored four straight points. After Critchelow scored to make it 48-44, Garris was injured while trying to catch an errant pass near mid-court. Garris’ right leg cramped up and he left the game.
When he returned, Garris scored three points and gave the Green Wave their last lead – 54-53 – by hitting 1-of-2 free throws with 4:06 remaining.
But the Green Wave didn’t score again until Garris’ jumper with 1:16 to go. The Fighting Tigers hit six free throws in the final 1:09 to ice their third win over Meade County this season.
Garris, who was joined on the All-Tournament Team by Wilson and senior forward Connor Williams, liked his team’s chances before the defensive switch. He thought the Green Wave were better suited to play man-to-man.
“I think it would have been a different outcome had we stayed in our man defense,” he said. “But we can’t help it. What’s done is done.”
Jerry Garris shouldered the blame for the move, saying he did what he thought was right for his team at the time.
“I’ll take the blame for that,” Jerry Garris said. “We’re not a good zone team, and that’s the first time we’ve played a zone since the Ohio County game. I screwed us up. Those three possessions was all it took.”
BRECKINRIDGE COUNTY 70, MEADE COUNTY 60
Meade County 12 15 19 14—60
Breckinridge Co. 16 10 16 28—70
Meade County (10-20)
Bryce Garris 27, Zeb Wilson 15, Charles Mattingly 11, Connor Williams 3, John Michael Millay 2, John Wilson 2. FG: 25-53. FT: 9-15. 3-pointers: 1-7 (Garris 1-5, Mattingly 0-1, Millay 0-1). Rebs: 31 (Williams 10, Z. Wilson 7). Assists: 9 (J. Wilson 4, Garris 3). Steals: 6 (Z. Wilson 2, Four with 1).
Breckinridge County (21-7)
Kody Hughes 26, Kirk Critchelow 20, Chris Morgan 10, Justin Potts 8, Neil Critchelow 6. FG: 21-48. FT: 24-33. 3-pointers: 4-13 (N. Critchelow 1-6, Morgan 2-3, Hughes 1-3, K. Critchelow 0-1). Rebs: 32 (K. Critchelow 9, Potts 7). Assists: 4 (K. Critchelow 3, Potts 1). Steals: 4 (Morgan 2).
Josh Claywell can be reached at (270) 505-1752 or firstname.lastname@example.org.