Pitino back at KOB, sees Mayo and Lofton play again
Apollo 65, Rose Hill 62
Mason County 74, Miami Senior 65
Apollo vs Mason County, 8:00
University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino was back in the gym for the King of the Bluegrass Classic again Friday night. This time, Pitino brought reinforcements as Reece Gaines, Francisco Garcia and Taquan Dean watched next to him behind the basket for Friday's semifinal action.
The first semifinal pitted Apollo High against Rose Hill Academy and 8th grade sensation O.J. Mayo. Apollo jumped out to an early first half lead, up 20-5 at one point. They went into the locker room with a comfortable margin but once again the Royals weren't about to concede. Off to a slow start again tonight, Mayo and his teammates turned up the intensity in the second half to get back into the ballgame. The lead changed hands several times during the second half but in the end Apollo, which bounced Male the previous night, prevailed for a hard fought and impressive 65-62 victory over Rose Hill to advance to Saturday's championship game against Mason County.
Even in defeat tonight, this young Rose Hill team announced to the Hoops world in this state that they are now and will be a team to reckon with in the future. Despite starting Mayo, an eighth grader and relying on major minutes from 6'4 freshman Bill Walker, the Royals were impressive in reaching the semifinals of the King of the Bluegrass. They'll face a big and athletic Miami Senior squad for third place Saturday evening.
Speaking of the young talent at Rose Hill, we'll now have to add another name to the list besides Mayo. Inside theVille would like to reintroduce Bill Walker, a 6'4 freshman forward/center who was impressive in Thursday's nights quarterfinal game against Ballard and played even better Friday night against Apollo. Walker connected on 6-8 shots from the field and 1/2 from downtown for 13 points on the night. He also pulled down 3 rebounds and blocked a couple shots. But it's his huge upside that excites basketball people. At 6'4, Walker has a nice frame, long arms and looks like he'll end up a 6'7 or 6'8 player before he's done growing. In the two nights I've watched him, Walker displayed excellent ball and shooting skills for a young player his size, reminiscent of a young Antoine Walker or Jamal Mashburn type. He's a good shooter with excellent touch, a nice release and good rotation on his shot. He has excellent post moves and used an effective drop step to score 2 or three times on the block. One play in particular was quite telling of the potential this young forward possesses: After receiving the ball in the lane 10 feet from the basket, Walker pivoted and faced the basket. Then as the defender squared up between he and the basket, Walker made an incredibly quick spin move to the hoop for a layup! In the first half, Walker displayed his range too, stepping out to the three point line and knocking one in. But the play of the night occurred with less than three minutes to play and Rose Hill in possession of the ball. Needing a hoop, Rose Hill launched an errant shot that bounced off the front of the rim. Then, timing the rebound perfectly, Walker rocketed off the floor, extended his long, left arm and slammed home the miss, igniting the crowd to it's feet. This kid has all the tools and you'd be hard pressed to find a better high school freshman in the state of Kentucky this season. He's that good!
Mayo had another good night but didn't really heat up until the second half of play. Mayo once again was clutch down the stretch. Trailing by six late in the second frame, Mayo drained two consecutive deep threes to tie the game. He then prevented an Apollo three on one fast break by blocking an attempted layup and pinning it on the board. For the game Mayo connected on 8/19 from the field and 4/7 from behind the arch for 22 points overall. He also pulled down 6 rebounds and had 6 assists.
The second game pitted Lofton and Mason County against the much bigger and more athletic Miami Senior team. Trailing much of the game, Mason County's full court pressure defense and three point shooting proved enough to defeat perennial Florida power and 17 time Florida state champion, 74-65. Mason County struggled most of the game keeping athletic, 6'7 forward Jerald Minnis off the offensive glass. However, Chris Lofton and Dustin Grutza 3 point bombed the Royals into Saturday's championship. Lofton was once again impressive and proved he can do it all on the basketball floor. He defended well and had several steals on the press, snagged a couple of rebounds against the bigger Stingerees, dished out a few assists and displayed a nice mid range game to go with the deep three point range. Overall, Lofton finished with 21 points and has 94 points in the first three rounds of the Classic. He's certainly made a name for himself this week and has to be mentioned when talking about the top players in the state.
Tidbits from the KOB
Former Louisville player Everick Sullivan, is now an assistant coach at