MURRAY - Caleb Stonecipher found himself in the right place at the right time, and his steal that led to him making two free throws with 27.3 seconds to play was vital in helping McCracken County pull out a 58-51 victory Monday night over Graves County in a boys First Region tournament semifinal game at Murray State's CFSB Center.
Stonecipher said McCracken County's scouting report allowed him to get in the right spot in front of the Eagles' basket on a pass that came on a throw-in from the other end. After being fouled right after making the steal, the junior went down and hit the two free shots that made it 56-51.
"We studied all their plays during the week, and we knew they loved going to the block in that situation," he said. "So I just knew if I could time the jump that I could get the pass."
McCracken County (23-8) advances to today's 7 p.m. championship game at the CFSB Center. It will play Marshall County, who beat Mayfield 50-42 in Monday's second semifinal game.
"I can't say enough about our kids," McCracken County coach Burlin Brower said. "What a great job for these kids to come together and battle like they did. I thought it was a great game and thought Graves played their hearts out. It was a great high school basketball game."
Jared Burnett and Kam Chumbler led McCracken in scoring with 11 points each. Stonecipher and Bryce Rodgers both had 10 points. Rodgers led the Mustangs with seven rebounds.
Graves County (27-5) was led by Jake Williams' 19 points, and Peyton Puckett added 10. Puckett grabbed seven boards.
Stoncipher's free throws came after Chumbler hit two free throws with 39.1 seconds to play and put the Mustangs up 54-51.
The game was sent into some confusion with 2:17 to go when a foul was called during a made 3-pointer by Graves County's Justin Hayden that cut McCracken's lead to 52-49. The foul was called away from the ball on McCracken's Sergio Vega, and initially it looked like the call was going to put Graves County's Andrew Smith on the line.
But Hayden went to the line to complete what was thought to be a four-point play. But after the officials consulted with each other, Williams was sent to the line to shoot two free throws, which he made, and the Eagles sliced the margin to 52-51.
"They called a foul, and we thought they called it on the shooter," Graves County coach Terry Birdsong said. "So we thought it was one free throw, and when Hayden made it we called time-out. Come to find out it was in the bonus, so it couldn't have been him because he was the shooter. So they went back, took a point off the scoreboard and put Jake there, which they said was the rightful shooter, and they gave me my timeout back, because I wouldn't called the timeout if it was a bonus.
"So we thought it was a 3-point shot and one free throw, call the timeout and set up our defense. It didn't hurt us, because Jake made them both and it's water under the bridge. But that's what happened."
Brower saw the play this way: "It first started when I thought they shot an air ball, but they said we deflected it. They got the ball back and hit a three. Then on the three they said we fouled them, and they put the wrong free-throw shooter up and it was just a fiasco. But all's well that ends well."
Graves County 14 30 41 51
McCracken County 11 30 42 58
GRAVES COUNTY - Hannan 2, Puckett 10, Hayden 9, Williams 19, Kimbler 8, Vogt 3, Smith.
Field goals 20/44.3-pointers 4/13 (Hayden, Williams 3). Free throws 7/13. Rebounds 31. Fouls 17. Record 27-5.
MCCRACKEN COUNTY - Burnett 11, Chumbler 11, Armstrong 5, Telfair 2, Stonecipher 10, Vega 8, Austin Nall 1, Hayden, Rodgers 10.
Field goals 18/37. 3-pointers 5/11 (Burnett 2, Stonechipher, Vega 2). Free throws 17/21. Rebounds 18. Fouls 11. Record 23-8.
Call James D. Horne, a Sun sports writer, at 270-575-8661 or follow on Twitter @psunsports.