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George Rogers Clark Returns to State Championship After Defeating Frederick Douglass

Article written by:On3 imageBrady Byrdwell


Photo by Les Nicholson | Kentucky Sports Radio

The title round of the 2023 UK Healthcare Boys’ Sweet 16 Tournament at Rupp Arena has been set.

George Rogers Clark will return to the Sweet 16 championship to defend its title crown on Saturday night. It took a 32-minute battle with Frederick Douglass to get there, but No. 5 GRC held on for a 51-44 victory over the No. 2 Broncos; it was a great game in front of a packed crowd.

Waiting for them will be the same foe as last season, the No. 1 ranked Warren Central Dragons. A matchup that the entire state was hoping for — round two is upon us for the title of Kentucky’s best. The state championship game will take place tonight at Rupp Arena at 7:00 PM.

Hot Start for the Cardinals

George Rogers Clark came out of the gates hot on Saturday, looking like they wanted to defend their crown early. The experience of last season came into play as the moment seemed manageable for the Cardinals. They started on a 9-2 run, led by senior guard Jerone Morton and senior forward Trent Edwards.

This run came as the result of Frederick Douglass coach Wes Scarberry’s decision to not start senior Kai Simpson or sophomore Aveion Chenualt, who both started most Broncos’ games leading into the championship. Simpson and Chenualt saw their first action four minutes into the game, already down by seven points. Although nobody seems to know why the two did not start, Scarberry answered the post-game questions.

When asked if this decision contributed to the loss, he answered, “I don’t think so. I mean, you go through a game, you sub throughout the game, and I think it was maybe two or three minutes of them not being on the court. So I didn’t think it had any effect on the outcome of the game.”

Scarberry continued, alluding to the substitutions being defensively oriented, trying to start better defenders to slow George Rogers Clark early.

GRC’s ReShaun Hampton capped a great first quarter with a three; the Cardinals finished the first leading 15-8. The teams continued to trade baskets into the second quarter as Douglass began to heat up. The Broncos scored 13 points in the second quarter, which was much needed. However, George Rogers Clark also scored 13 in the same frame, so they kept their seven-point advantage going into halftime.

Cardinals head coach Josh Cook mentioned needing Hampton to shoot the ball more.

“I told ReShaun, please shoot the ball I may have said a few other things in that sentence, but I said to shoot the ball. So he finally started to shoot the ball.”

George Rogers Clark goes Cold

GRC couldn’t find the bottom of the net in the third quarter. This allowed the Broncos to creep back into the game, even though they still were not shooting the ball great. However, senior guard Kai Simpson started to make all of the hustle plays for Douglass, which allowed for some easier baskets than what was presented in the first half.

Sophomore Armelo Boone also began to heat up, as he has been the most talented player for Frederick Douglass in the postseason. George Rogers Clark only managed three points in the third quarter while Douglass scored 10, leading to a 31-29 Douglass lead going into the fourth.

The sleeping giants woke up, though, as Hampton splashed another three for the Cardinals, which led to an 8-0 run for GRC. In the final quarter, one play cemented last year’s Sweet 16 MVP Jerone Morton into Rupp Arena legend as he rose and finished one of the meanest dunks ever seen on the floor of Rupp.

Morton laughed at the play after the game, trying to explain why he felt the need to do it

“I told Coach Cook and everybody on the team that they’ve been playing with my bounce all year,” Morton said. “I saw that (the defender) was flat, and I knew he was going to take away the lob from Trent (Edwards), so I was like, ‘Why not?” I knew I was going to get fouled, and, luckily, it paid off in my favor.”

Photo by Les Nicholson | Kentucky Sports Radio

Despite the loss, Simpson finished the game with 13 points while Boone finished with 13 points, a solid showing from both players in the big moment. Morton finished with 20 points, including going 14-17 from the free throw line.

At the end of the day, George Rogers Clark got it done as they went on to win 51-44. The Cardinals and Warren Central will meet in tonight’s finals in what will be the first title game rematch since the 1980s.

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