Red Bay boys hold off late charge by Bobcats
Mike Self FCT Sports Editor
RED BAY - A friendly rivalry between two teammates has the Red Bay Tigers on the brink of something special.
Brandon Colburn and Randy Lowery led a dominant effort on the boards and Kurt Kennedy had 21 points and seven assists as Red Bay held off county rival Phil Campbell 61-54 in Monday's Class 2A, Area 16 championship game.
The Tigers (14-10) won their third straight game and earned the right to host Lexington on Friday in the sub-region round, thanks in large part to the rebounding prowess of their two senior post players.
"Randy and I are always picking on each other, arguing about who can jump higher," said Colburn, who had 11 points and nine rebounds on Monday. "The way we've been jumping lately, we can pretty much out-jump anybody in our area."
It was that superior athleticism that helped the Tigers claim a 41-28 edge on the glass.
"That was big, because Phil Campbel plays hard and they're a scrappy team," said Lowery, who finished with 19 points, 14 rebounds, four steals and three blocks. "But we're a little taller and stronger, and we were able to use our jumping ability to go up and get those rebounds."
Red Bay finished with 13 offensive rebounds, the most critical coming with just less than a minute left in the game.
The resilient Bobcats had sliced an 11-point deficit down to four when Red Bay's Matt Hester went to the foul line with 53 seconds remaining.
Hester made the first and missed the second, but Colburn grabbed the rebound and scored on a putback while being fouled.
He failed to convert the three-point play, but Hester came up with another offensive board and got the ball to Kennedy.
The senior guard was fouled and made both free throws to finish off a five-point possession and give Red Bay a 60-51 lead with 45 seconds remaining.
"Those offensive rebounds we got off missed free throws in the last minute were huge," Red Bay coach Rory Carpenter said. "We talked a lot about really being aggressive on the boards, and Brandon and Randy really set the tone for us in that department tonight."
The Tigers appeared to take control midway through the third quarter when a pair of baskets by Lowery capped a 6-0 spurt to put Red Bay on top 39-27.
But no lead is safe against Phil Campbell, a fact that county rival Belgreen can certainly attest to (the Bulldogs watched an 11-point fourth-quarter lead turn into a 10-point loss to the Bobcats in Friday night's semifinals).
"They just keep coming back at you," Carpenter said. "Coach [Kelly] Kiser is right. He said this was the best group he's ever had at keeping their composure and never giving up. Just look what they did against Belgreen the other night. They went from down 10 to winning by 10. They're just so relentless."
Sure enough, the Bobcats began their comeback as Eric Glasgow made a three-pointer and a quick layup off a steal to spark a 12-4 run.
A trey by Griffin Harris brought Phil Campbell within four at 43-39 with 1:50 left in the third quarter.
Cody Garrison's layup made it a two-point game, but Red Bay responded with a 9-0 run to push the lead back into double figures.
A three-point play by Lowery and a basket by Kennedy made it 52-41 midway through the fourth quarter.
A three-pointer by Glasgow triggered another Bobcat run, however, and Harris drained a trey to cut the lead to 53-49 with 1:40 remaining.
Matt Thomas finished with 21 points to lead the Bobcats, who will travel to face No. 2 Tanner (24-1) in Friday's sub-region round. Glasgow added 15 points.
Matt Hester had five points and six rebounds for Red Bay, which led 18-15 at the end of a back-and-forth first quarter that saw the lead change hands six times.
Kennedy opened the second quarter with a three, and Red Bay took its largest lead of the half at 28-19 on a layup by Lowery midway through the second quarter.
The Tigers led 31-23 at the half.
Red Bay finished the night 14-for-24 at the foul line, while Phil Campbell was just 4-for-8.