Patriots battle but fall short in first round of state tournament

Published 11:43 pm Thursday, March 7, 2019

LEXINGTON — Thursday marked the end of Lincoln County’s strong postseason run.

The Patriots (23-13) fell to Madisonville-North Hopkins, 57-49, in the opening round of the state tournament at Rupp Arena.

Madisonville-North Hopkins (30-5) entered the game with a 22-game win streak, but the Patriots weren’t fazed by the bright lights or their opponent.

Email newsletter signup

Lincoln freshman Jaxon Smith scored 19 points and had a game-high six assists for the Patriots. It was Lincoln who held a lead for a majority of the first quarter before Madisonville-North Hopkins took a 10-9 lead into the second quarter.

The Maroons would push their lead to six points at the halftime break, 27-21. But Lincoln stayed within striking distance.

In the fourth quarter, Madisonville-North Hopkins opened up a 12-point lead, its largest of the game, just 53 seconds into the quarter.

Lincoln head coach Jeff Jackson called a timeout, rallied his team. His team responded.

Our 2-2-1 press was really good, did a good job trapping, got some steals and transition baskets,” Jackson said. “… We didn’t do a very good job in transition defense tonight. We’ve not had teams run on us and get behind us like Madsionville did tonight. We gave them some easy baskets. We had a couple opportunities late to tie it and keep it close down the stretch. They hit free throws.”

The Patriots cut the Maroons’ lead to three points, 47-44, with 2:46 left in the game. Blake Smith hit a pair of threes during the run and Jaxon Smith added three points from the foul line during the run.

I’m proud of our basketball team,” Jackson said. “I’m proud of our kids and the way that they’ve grown and matured down the stretch. They played their tails off, they competed … There’s no coach in the state of Kentucky, and I mean this, more prouder of a group of kids than I am of our basketball team. We ran into a really, really good basketball team tonight.”

Lincoln struggled with the Maroons’ length on both ends of the floor: Kenny White blocked six shots but made his presence felt most on offense with multiple dunks en route to a game-high 21 points. Ksuan Casey matched Riley Bodner’s size on the inside and finished with a game-high 12 rebounds and 11 points.

The Maroons finished with 16 assists on 20 made baskets and had nine blocks. Lincoln limited turnovers (eight) but wasn’t as efficient on the offensive end, finishing 18-of-51 from the field compared to the Maroons’ 20-for-37 mark.

Madisonville-North Hopkins would push its lead back to eight, and with under 30 seconds left, Jackson took his seniors out of the game and embraced each of them. Sawyer Carrier, another senior, dressed for the first time since breaking his foot against Eastern on Dec. 14.

“I told ’em I loved them,” Jackson said. “We’ve missed Sawyer. He’s a tremendous player, broke his foot bad. He just got cleared to dress tonight, he didn’t get to play but he did get to dress. Our four seniors have helped define the culture of what we try to do at our school. All four of them are good student-athletes, all four of them represent our school and our community, our program in the highest fashion.”

Those seniors helped guide the team to on a remarkable 12th Region tournament run: The Patriots beat Mercer County without Jaxon Smith (flu) in the first round, beat Wayne County in five overtimes in the semifinals and then outlasted 45th District opponent Danville in the region title.

“I love our seniors, they’re the reason we’re here. Their leadership guided our young kids … They defined who we are every day in practice. They were so much fun to be around, as good of chemistry on a team that I’ve had a chance to experience in 34 years. It was fun.”

It was the first trip to Rupp Arena for Lincoln County this decade, and Blake Smith said it was an “unbelievable experience.”

“At the beginning, the seniors, we talked with the whole team,” he said. “This is where we wanted to end it, this was our goal for the year. It’s been tremendous. I love every one of them, I’m going to miss it. It was a great season.”

Jaxon Smith and returners Riley Bodner, Elijah Frye, Bryston Alcorn, Riley Bodner and Baylor Mattingly all received invaluable experience playing at Rupp Arena. For Jaxon Smith, he’s itching to return with his brother on the team next year.

“I’m just going to tell him that it was a great experience,” he said. “I’m glad to be here, it was great coming as a freshman and I’d love to come back as a sophomore, him to come up as a freshman and be able to experience that with him would be pretty cool.”

Lincoln will be in the mix again for a region championship next year, and Jackson said he’s already eager to return to the gym and prepare. He said that his four seniors were instrumental in showing what it took for a trip to Rupp.

“We’ve got good kids coming, all the way through our middle school program,” Jackson said. “Blake, Bryson, Darius, Sawyer laid the foundation that hopefully these kids are excited about what they saw this year, the impact that it has on our school and our community. We’ll be back at it and I hope our younger kids are hungry and I hope they want to come back and experience this again. We’ve got several juniors who will be seniors next year, I want them to come back and finish here.”


Box score

KHSAA State tournament first round at Rupp Arena



LINCOLN COUNTY 9 12 10 18 49



MADISONVILLE-NORTH HOPKINS (30-5): Kenny White 21, Ksuan Casey 11, Cade Cunningham 9, JD Gilbert 6, Marquise Parker 4, Jordan Vaughn 4.

LINCOLN COUNTY (23-13): Jaxon Smith 19, Riley Bodner 11, Blake Smith 10, Bryson Yaden 3, Baylor Mattingly 3, Bryston Alcorn 2, Elijah Frye 1.