'Cats win first Classic crown since '05
SLATER -- The Slater boys' basketball team was the favorite for the Wildcat Classic championship a year ago, but came up short during a two-point loss to Fayette.
Aden Campbell wasn't going to let that happen again. The senior guard took charge during the second half, scoring 13 of his game-high 21 points, to lead the top-seeded Wildcats to the title Saturday with a 56-44 victory over No. 2 seed Jamestown.
"Man, this was awesome," declared Slater head coach Dillon Yung, whose had lost in the finals 12 years ago as a player at Glasgow. "This is special. This group's worked so hard and they've been so close, I'm so excited for them."
The 'Cats came out hot, scoring the game's first eight points, but Jameston slowed them down and used a 12-1 run -- capped by sophomore Tristan Jones' three-pointer -- for an 18-11 lead with two minutes left in the second period. Slater made a late surge, with a bucket-and-one from junior Keegan Zdybel and bombs from both he and Campbell during the final minute to take a two-point lead into halftime.
"I think they did a good job of slowing us down and controlling the tempo on offense," Yung said. "When we were able to get out and run, we got on six- or seven-point runs rather quickly."
The 'Cats opened the second half with a 12-4 spurt before the Eagles made a brief surge, getting three goals from junior Christian Snyder, to close the margin to six points with two minutes remaining in the third period.
That was broken by transition buckets after steals by Campbell and sophomore JaKorie Terrill. Zdybel closed the frame with a drive to the hole for a 12-point lead. Jamestown was unable to cut into the deficit, Campbell finished a give-and-go fast break with Zdybel with 5:22 to go for an 45-34 edge.
"At halftime we talked about how our defense had to transition into offense," Yung said. "Our defense did a good job of getting out wide and just not letting them feel comfortable in the first half."
Zdybel scored in transition to make it an 18-point spread with 3:43 left. Although the 'Cats missed eight of 12 free throws during the final three minutes, the outcome was never in doubt.
Snyder had 18 points for the Eagles (10-8), who were Sacred Heart's fourth straight victim in the finals two years ago.
Slater hadn't won the title since 2005, but Campbell and his two fellow senior starters -- plus Zdybel with 13 points -- weren't going to squander their final opportunity. It was the 'Cats' third championship game, and second title, this season -- so following Tuesday's non-conference contest at Sweet Springs will set its sights on a wide-open CAC regular season championship by hosting unbeaten New Franklin the following evening.
"We've got to win on the defensive end and do a lot better job shooting free throws," Yung assessed his club's chances. As for the present, keeping the big trophy at home "really means a lot to this group."
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