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March 16, 2014

‘We played our hearts out’: Miners fall to Clarksville in OT

HUNTINGBURG — Even though their shooting legs had long since betrayed them — because of their dogged defensive effort, no doubt — Linton’s Miners were 4.4 seconds away from winning their second straight high school basketball regional championship Saturday night.

But second-ranked Clarksville and Class 2A Southridge Regional MVP Calvin McEwen found a way to get a tying basket, and the Generals pulled away in overtime for a 42-36 victory in Memorial Gym.

Linton didn’t have a field goal in the fourth quarter, but got a free throw from Bryant Jackson for a 27-27 tie at 3:28. The Miners got the ball back and decided to keep it.

Facing sometimes withering defensive pressure from the small but quick Generals, Linton held the ball until a timeout at 1:16, then held it again until a second timeout with 10.8 seconds to go.

Ryan Woodward drove to the basket and drew a foul, hitting the two go-ahead free throws, and the Miners used one foul to slow Clarksville’s journey up the floor.

With 3.1 seconds left, however, McEwen got around his man and slipped the ball to Marquise Parrish, who tied the game with a layup as the clock ran down the last tenths of a second.

“The kid made a great play,” Linton coach Joey Hart said of McEwen after the game. “It was a great game.”

Clarksville got another basket 15 seconds into the overtime period, but Linton’s Zach Riddell tied the game with a putback at 2:33. McEwen got to the middle twice in a row, however, first scoring himself and then setting up a layup by D.J. Coleman. Trailing by two scores forced Linton to pick up its offensive pace and also to foul, and the Miners never caught up.

Clarksville’s 13 overtime points were more than the Generals had scored in the entire second half, as Linton’s tempo decision for this game was to grind it to a virtual halt.

The Miners trailed 15-10 early in the second quarter of the extremely physical game, but then went on an 8-2 run to take their first lead at 18-17. Jackson had a pair of 3-pointers and Joe Dieball scored the go-ahead basket. Another trade of baskets in the last minute gave the Miners a 20-19 lead at intermission.

Josh Dieball got the first basket of the third quarter, and Linton led for the first 10 minutes of the second half. The Miners were actually up 25-21 midway through the snail-paced third quarter on another trey by Jackson, but that would prove to be Linton’s last field goal of regulation time.

“In the fourth quarter we got some great looks that were a chance to get ourself a little breathing room,” Hart said afterward, “but we just couldn’t get away from them.”

Jackson led the Miners with 10 points, while Woodward and Riddell added nine each. McEwen had a game-high 16 for Clarksville, and also was the game’s leading rebounder and had the two huge assists.

McEwen had been Woodward’s defensive responsibility and Jackson had guarded Andrew Jones most of the night, as Linton’s basic defensive set was a triangle-and-two. Hart praised both of them and also Joe Dieball for his work at the top of the triangle.

“We made just a couple of mistakes, but we played our hearts out,” the coach said after the game. “Our guys have tremendous heart; effort has been our calling card all year.”

Clarksville used even more of an in-your-face defense than Perry Central had earlier in the day, but the Miners withstood the pressure to have just 10 turnovers and control of the tempo until the overtime period.

“That was an adjustment for us,” Hart admitted when asked about the Generals’ pressure. “We have a few kids who can usually get to the basket whenever they want.”

Although a second semifinal trip in as many years isn’t in the cards for the Miners, Hart was thrilled about his team’s season.

“There wasn’t a question about what these guys gave [out on the court],” he said. “I’ve never enjoyed coaching a group of guys more, and my four seniors (Jackson, Woodward, Riddell and Beau Eaton) were incredible.”

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