Jugs outlast Conner in overtime again

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Lloyd Memorial and Conner need more than 32 minutes to settle basketball games.

The two played an overtime battle on February 17 and 10 days later did so once again. This time, the stakes much higher in the Ninth Region tournament quarterfinals.

And for the second time, the Juggernauts got the best of the Cougars in the extra period, winning the tightly contested battle, 56-53.

The Juggernauts are to this point thanks to their defense and ability to turn to Jeremiah Israel and EJ Walker when needed.

Israel may have come out quiet with just three first half points, but he figured things out pretty quickly. Israel scored 10 of the Jugs 12 points in the third, Lloyd taking a 36-34 lead into the fourth.

Lloyd Memorial celebrates after a 56-53 overtime victory against Conner in the Ninth Region tournament quarterfinals. Photo provided | Bob Jackson

“I just let it come to me,” Israel said. “I needed to be a threat on defense and that second half I was able to hit some shots, get some defensive stops and hit some free throws.”

Lloyd’s pesky defense continued to keep the Cougars in check, Conner unable to find the range, finishing 2-of-14 from three. They were held to eight points in a 12-minute stretch, but suddenly found themselves tied at 42 with two minutes to play on a Daniel Campbell jumper.

“A good amount of it was Lloyd and what they do. I think we still had some good looks, we just didn’t make them. Some of that is the way you have to work to get shots against them and that’s credit to them. I thought our execution for the most part was good,” Cougars coach Matt Otte said.

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Israel’s two free throws with 41.2 seconds left gave Lloyd a 44-42 edge, Daniel Campbell knotting the game back up on two free throws with 9.4 seconds remaining. Israel’s attempt at a game-winner was blocked in the lane, Dalton Kramer’s desperation heave from three quarter court peaking one’s attention, but falling just short.

The two traded baskets to open the extra frame, Anthony Blaackar’s layup followed by a Campbell jumper off the glass. Israel and Kramer then traded free throws, EJ Walker’s thunderous two-handed dunk giving the Jugs a 50-48 lead with 1:30 to play.

Blaackar hit two free throws with 48 seconds to go, Ayden Lohr’s triple with 30 seconds remaining getting the Cougars back within one at 52-51.

Isaiah Sebastian calmly sunk two free throws before a Kramer putback and a heady delay of game by the Cougars to stop the clock with 5.7 seconds left, making it 54-53.

“Those guys are what won this game. It was our role guys that do the small things. We don’t win this game without our role guys,” Juggernauts coach Michael Walker said.

The Juggernauts finished the overtime 8-for-8 from the line, Israel’s two free throws with 4.1 seconds left giving them a three-point lead. The Cougars last chance came from Kramer, getting down the floor and getting a look from deep, but the shot from one of its more decorated seven member senior class saw their high school careers come to an end.

“Not seeing those seven in the gym again together is going to be hard. The first workout back you’re gonna be looking around and asking where these guys are. It’s been so long with them and we talked about the amount of work that they’ve all put in to get us into this. This stretch where I would imagine is one of the better four or five year runs in Conner basketball,” Otte said.

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Conner’s senior class won 79 games and three district championships to go with a region runner-up in which some had picked to make it to Lexington with their regular season resume.

Ayden Lohr rises up for a jumper with Jeremiah Israel defending. Photo provided | Bob Jackson

“That’s just a random guess on people’s part. You can pick, you can pull them out of the hat and say that’s what I’m picking. The region is just that good this year,” Otte said.

The region flexed its depth, the Juggernauts continuing to be on the rise as the season has gone on. Lloyd has now won 12 of 15, two of those losses coming to state ranked George Rogers Clark and Covington Catholic.

“Look at our schedule, we played eight teams in the top 20 this year, 13 teams in the top 35. Majority on the road. That’s what prepares us for stuff like this,” Walker said.

The game of dry spells and runs started early on, Conner jumping out to a 8-2 lead. Lloyd got to within five thanks to Walker’s six-point quarter, but Conner led 17-10 after one. It was the Cougars turn for a drought, going five minutes into the second before Landen Hamilton’s floater tied the game at 19.

A Walker triple followed by a two-handed throwdown capped of a 12-2 Jugs run to make it 24-19. Conner responded with a 7-0 run to close the half and a 26-24 lead on two Hamilton free throws.

Conner’s lead extended to six to start the second half as Campbell scored four straight to make it 30-24. Lloyd’s defense rose to the occasion, Israel getting his start with 5:28 to go in the third, scoring 18 points from that point on. While Israel may be in the shadows of all the Evan Ipsaro and Jacob Meyer talk this season, he certainly rose to the occasion Monday night.

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“I don’t really let that stuff get to me,” Israel said. “I just try to stay as humble as I can. We’re all just different players and I just try to worry about me and the team and keep doing what I’m doing.”

Israel finished with 21 points and seven rebounds, hitting 10-of-11 free throws. Walker dropped 15 with six rebounds, the Jugs getting eight from Sebastian, six each from Joe Cooley and Blaackar.

Lloyd’s back in the semis for the second straight season, last year being their first trip to the region tournament since 2017. They get Newport, a team that defeated them in what seemed like ages ago, a 55-38 Wildcats victory on Dec. 13.

Conner had four score in the contest led by Kramer’s 18. Campbell had 14, Lohr with 10 and Hamilton nine.

CONNER — 17-9-8-10-9 — 53

LLOYD — 10-14-12-8-12 — 56

Conner (53) – Kramer 18, Campbell 16, Lohr 10, Hamilton 9

Lloyd (56) – Israel 21, Walker 15, Sebastian 8, Cooley 6, Blaackar 6

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