Fifth Third Bank Kentucky Holiday Classic
December 26-30, 1998
by Ron Harrison
The Fifth Third Bank Kentucky Holiday Classic is the brainchild of Lexington Catholic coach Danny Haney. Some of the alumni of the tournament are Elton Brand (Duke), Kenny Gregory (Kansas), Karim Shebazz (formerly Florida State), Vincent Yarbrough (Tennessee), DeShaun Williams (Villanova signee), Casey Sanders (Duke signee), David Graves and Harold Swanagan (Notre Dame), Nathan Popp and Shawn Fields (Georgia signees), and many others.
This year Danny has put together an eighteen team field featuring some of the top teams in Kentucky (Madison Central, Scott County, Ballard, Clay County, Lexington Catholic, Male, etc.) The field also includes Jacksonville Wolfson (Florida), Southern Lab (Louisiana), Cathedral Academy (Georgia) and Cathedral Prep (Pennsylvania).
Just a few of the top players in the tournament are: Rashaad Carruth 6-4 super Soph. (Cathedral Academy), 6-7 Jr. Nick Anderson and 5-9 Sr. Victor Tarver (Southern Lab), 6-9 Sr. Kenny Walker and Super Frosh 6-3 Antonio Lawrence from Jacksonville Wolfson. Some of the featured Kentucky players are 6-9 Soph. Brandon Bender and 6-8 Jr. Mac Wilkinson from Ballard, 6-1 Sr. PG Rick Jones from Scott County, 7-1 Sr. Nathan Popp from Lexington Catholic, and 6-9 Sr. Kentucky signee Marquis Estill from Madison Central
One of the best opening round games was played on December 26th between Louisville Ballard and Jacksonville Wolfson. Ballard prevailed by a score of 70-65. Brandon Bender, a rising star 6-9 Soph. had 18 points and 12 rebounds, and 6-8 Jr. Mac Wilkinson added 18 points and 7 rebounds. Kenny Walker, a 6-9 Alabama signee from Wolfson tallied 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 blocks. However the star of the game was 6-3 Wolfson Freshman Antonio Lawrence, who tallied 33 points 5 rebounds, and only 3 turnovers in 29:55 of action.
In the quarterfinals, Lexington Catholic defeated Prestonsburg by a score of 88-49 and Louisville Male outlasted a scrappy well-coached Franklin County team by a score of 64-60. The other quarterfinal brackets produced a couple of classics. In the first, Southern Lab (Baton Rouge, Louisiana) defeated Madison Central 77-73. The stars really came out to play in this one. Marquis Estill, the 6-9 Kentucky signee scored 32 points and 8 rebounds while the acrobatic wing man 6-3 Sr. Kenneal Jenkins finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds. The victorious Southern Lab squad was led by 6-7 Jr. Nick Anderson with 22 points and 13 rebounds. Victor Tarver, the dynamic 5-9 Sr. floor general scored 21 points and dealt out 7 assists for Southern Lab. Victor has speed and can break down a defense by either driving, passing, or hitting the jump shot.
In the nightcap, the last quarterfinal was won in a close one by Scott County 74-71 over Louisville Ballard. Ballard out-rebounded Scott County 53-35 but Rick Jones' shooting touch and clutch free throws down the stretch sealed the win. Jones, a 6-1 Sr., scored 27 points, A.W. Hamilton 21 points, and Scott Hundley had 12 rebounds. In a losing effort, Brandon Bender had 16 points and 10 rebounds, 6-5 Jr. Cedric Knight added 10 points and 14 rebounds, and Mac Wilkinson tallied 18 points. Ballard has a load of young talent and seems to be steadily improving.
The first semifinal game produced a hard fought battle with Lexington Catholic prevailing over Louisville Male by a score of 59-50. Matt Heissenbuttel, a 6-4 Jr. point guard led Catholic with 16 points. Don Offutt, a 6-4 forward added 14 points and 7 rebounds, and Nathan Popp, a 7-1 Sr. Georgia signee had 10 points and 6 rebounds. Male was led by an 18 point, 8 rebound effort from 6-6 Sr. forward Chris Shumate.
In the second semifinal, Scott County was victorious over Southern Lab (Louisiana) in a 76-61 contest. Scott County pulled away in the last three minutes to remain undefeated. Rick Jones led the way with 20 points and Scott Hundley contributed 18 points and 13 rebounds while playing solid defense on Southern Lab's star forward Nick Anderson. Southern Lab was led by 6-4 Soph. Marcus Spears with 16 points. Anderson, slowed by a bad knee as well as tough defense had 11 points and 10 rebounds.
In the championship game, Scott County, the number five team in the nation as ranked by USA Today, prevailed over Lexington Catholic by a score of 89-76. Scott County had built a 21 point lead before Catholic went on a 22-9 run to close to 51-43, but could get no closer. In the final period, Catholic was forced to foul, and Scott County clinched the win with excellent free throw shooting.
Scott County was led by their fine guard Rick Jones who tallied 24 points. A.W. Hamilton, a 6-3 Sr. Guard-forward added 23 points, and Scott Hundley, a 6-4 Jr. forward contributed 20 points and 17 rebounds. Catholic was led by Don Offutt and Matt Heissenbuttel with 19 points each, while Nathan Popp added 14 points and 12 rebounds. Scott County is now a perfect 13-0, while Lexington Catholic drops to 9-2 for the season.
Fifth Third Bank Kentucky Holiday Classic All Tournament Team
Rick Jones (Scott County) 6-1 Sr. Guard, Most Valuable Player, 20.8 PPG
Matt Heissenbuttel (Lexington Catholic) 6-4 Jr. Guard 16 PPG
A.W. Hamilton (Scott County) 6-3 Sr. Guard 18.8 PPG 5.5 RPG
Marquis Estill (Madison Central) 6-9 Sr. Center, Kentucky signee, 27.5 PPG 11.5 RPG 64% FGA 86% FTA
Victor Tarver (Southern Lab) 5-9 Sr. Guard 16.6 PPG 5.2 APG
Nick Anderson (Southern Lab) 6-7 Jr. Forward 15.6 PPG 11.2 RPG 20 Total Blocks
Stephen Asher (Clay County) 6-5 Sr. Guard 25.5 PPG 6 RPG
Brandon Bender (Louisville Ballard) 6-9 So. Forward 15.7 PPG 10.5 RPG
Kenny Walker (Jacksonville Wolfson) 6-9 Sr. Forward, Alabama signee, 16.5 PPG 10.5 RPG 26 Total Blocks
Chris Shumate (Louisville Male) 6-6 Sr. Forward 18.5 PPG 9 RPG
Josh Graham (Fleming County) 6-5 Sr. Forward 16 PPG 8.2 RPG
Andrew Moore (Franklin County) 6-5 Sr. Forward 17.5 PPG
Don Offutt (Lexington Catholic) 6-4 Sr. Forward 15 PPG
Scott Hundley (Scott County) 6-4 Jr. Forward 16.3 PPG 13.3 RPG outstanding rebounder and solid defensive player
Brandon Fritz (Madison Central) 5-9 Sr. Guard 15.5 PPG 50% 3 pt FGA in tourney
In other tidbits of interest Rashaad Carruth, the highly touted 6-4 So. guard from Cathedral Academy, had a tough tourney. His team lost three games by a large margin and Rashaad only averaged 16.3 PPG on 35% FG shooting. It's obvious Rashaad has loads of talent, and he will have his share of big games this year.
Antonio Lawrence (Jacksonville Wolfson), a 6-3 Fr. guard averaged 21.7 PPG in 3 games but did not play in the fourth game - coach decision. Antonio is a very talented individual and could become very special before he graduates.
This is an outstanding, well organized tournament. Eighteen teams played 33 games over a five day period. This was indeed a basketball junkie's dream. The field had many potential collegiate players and some exceptional teams.