Louisville's Pitino witness to Tiger comeback over Spring Hill

Saturday, January 16, 2010
University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino (red scarf) shakes the hand of a happy Marshall County fan after the Tigers won 58-57 in dramatic fashion Friday night at Spring Hill. Tribune photo by Anthony S. Puca

According to an article by C.L. Brown on the Louisville Courier-Journal.com website on Thursday, University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino said about his current Cardinal squad passing the ball to get a better shot.

"With that type of attitude, it makes you a better shooting team because you become a better passing team," Pitino said Thursday after a luncheon at the Downtown Marriott (Louisville). "You pass up the average-to-good shot for a great shot."

On Friday night in Spring Hill, Pitino was in the crowd behind the Marshall County bench and witnessed his focus of attention, Kedren Johnson pass up a shot at crunch time, instead dishing the rock to Jamie Perryman with four seconds left in the crucial District 12AA ballgame.

Perryman was fouled on the lay-up attempt and proceeded to untie the game when he calmly drained the first free-throw, giving the Tigers a 58-57 lead over the 7th ranked Raiders.

After a Spring Hill timeout, Perryman's second attempt was off, but Spring Hill could not get control of the ball and only managed a desperation long bomb that was way off target and the Tigers escaped with the one-point victory, taking a stranglehold of the league standings.

Johnson talked about that last play after the game, saying, "Everybody in the gym knew I was going to try and shoot it. I knew somebody was going to be open and just didn't know who it was going to be, so I starting driving a little bit and found Jamie wide open."

First place Marshall County (11-4, 6-0) is now two games clear of Spring Hill, Page, and Giles County in District 12AA.

Marshall County had trailed the Raiders for almost three entire quarters and by as much as 12 points into the third period and by five points early into the fourth quarter before the Tigers mounted the eventual game winning comeback.

Johnson and the fired up Tigers started strong, taking an early 17-9 first quarter lead before Spring Hill found their home footing to trail by just two points 18-16 after the first eight minutes.

The Tiger lead would evaporate quickly, just two minutes into the second period when Spring Hill's Kielan Blanks converted a three-point play on a driving lay-in, giving the Raiders their first lead of the night at 23-22.

The Raiders continued to surge forward and would not trail again until Perryman's free throw with four seconds left.

The 6'4" 200 lb. Johnson scored 22 points in the contest, running the point for MCHS head coach Jason Tigert.

The Southeastern Conference recruiting caravan has been heavy on Johnson's trail with Alabama, Vanderbilt, and Tennessee showing serious interest.

Memphis and Harvard have also been looking hard at Johnson and now with Big East interest from Louisville, the junior guard will have a tough decision to make next year.

After the ballgame, an elated Johnson talked about playing in front of Pitino.

"That is the first time playing in front of coach Pitino for me," said Johnson. "I have only seen him on T.V. before. It was unreal and it really pumped me up. It was an honor to have him here."

Tigert was not surprised about Johnson's unselfishness at the end of the game and said, "That proves what I have been telling folks about how unselfish this kid is. He is a true point guard in every sense with his leadership, shooting the ball when he has to, and finding his open teammates."

Pitino is not able to comment directly about players he is looking at, but said about the game, "I can't comment about the talent, but this was a great game. It was terrific and the atmosphere was great."

Blanks led all scorers with 24 points for Spring Hill.

For the Tigers, Perryman finished with 13, Jordan Anderson netted 9, Dillion Stinnett had two big treys for 6 points, freshman Kevin Peterson scored 5, and Dre' Crutcher had 3 points.