Madison County both lucky and good in 77-59 win over Page

The basketball gods favored Madison County last Friday in an opening-round 2A East regional contest between the host Mountaineers and Page County.

Madison’s Gaines Swink hit four three-pointers, and the Mountaineers put together a big run that spanned the latter half of the third quarter and the first half of the fourth, handing Page a season-ending 77-59 defeat. The final score wasn’t representative of how closely the game was contested.

But it’s not the long swishes or the small handful of turnovers most players and fans will remember — instead, it’s the freaky bounces of the ball that transformed a tight game into a longshot for Page.

On the Panthers’ final possession of the half, trailing 36-32, Page point guard Bobby Pendleton drove the baseline and put up a floater a few seconds too early. When the ball rimmed off the side of the backboard and into the hands of a Madison County player with less than five seconds left before halftime, they threw it ahead to a teammate, who hit a running, 20-foot teardrop three at the buzzer. Instead of potentially trailing 36-34 at halftime, Page trailed 39-32.

Later, Page managed to hold the ball for the final possession of the third quarter. Instead of getting off a shot, a Madison player ripped the ball out of Nathan Lucas’ hands in a weird defensive interaction. The Mountaineers ran the court in five quick seconds and finished the runout just as time expired, laying the ball off the glass right as the horn sounded.

There were other strange happenings as well. Players uncharacteristically dribbling the ball off their shoe, or balls with just the right amount of backspin to rim out of the cup when they were halfway down the net. There was also a near-five minute period in the second half where neither team scored at all.

Page acquitted themselves well, playing aggressive and shooting a high percentage on effective possessions throughout the first three quarters. But as the game dragged on, Page’s possessions became dictated by its deficit, and high-percentage looks were harder to come by. Madison County held a double-digit lead the entire fourth quarter.

Page (18-7) did a lot of things well. Senior forward Joel McKay had a game-high 25 points, connecting on multiple threes and displaing a wide array of effective post moves in his final game at PCHS. Except for a sloppy period early in the first quarter, the Panthers handled Madison’s press well. Most importantly, they maintained an aggressive attitude, attacking the basket and generating a noticeable foul disparity in both halves.

“Really, when you think about it, we only lost to three teams all year, and they’re pretty good teams” said head coach Russ Rodriguez. “We didn’t go as far as we would’ve liked, but it was a good season. I’m proud of our guys.”

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