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Johnson Central’s Ryleh McKenzie shoots a free throw late in the game against Martin County in 57th District action. The Golden Eagles fell to the Cardinals 58-54.

Monday night in Inez looked like it was anyones game.

It was what you expect when you see two 57th District teams go at it.

It was a nail-biter with a lot of lead changes, physicality and good shooting. Unfortunately for the Golden Eagles, they didn’t come out on top in this district matchup.

Johnson Central and Martin County dueled back-and-forth, exchanging the lead nine times throughout the game. The 57th District matchup looked pretty well evenly matched, with Johnson Central looking to pull away quickly into the third quarter when they established a 10 point lead, the biggest advantage for either team the entire night. The Cardinals were able to reel the Golden Eagles back in though, winning 58-54.

Johnson Central got off to a good start, pulling out to an 8-5 lead with 5:00 left in the first quarter before Martin County’s Luke Hale started to heat up. Hale hit a three pointer to give the Cardinals their first lead of the game at 9-8 with 3:15 remaining in the first. Johnson Central’s Jacob Butcher quickly answered back with a three pointer of his own on the following drive, pulling the Golden Eagles ahead once again 11-9.

The two teams went back and forth; culminating in a last second shot by the Cardinals’ Jordan Dalton put Martin County back within a point, 15-14 heading in to the second quarter.

The second quarter saw some quick offense as Martin County’s Dawson Mills hit a jumper to give the Cardinals the lead. It was short lived as Jacob Butcher laid one in from the inbound pass to give Johnson Central a 17-16 advantage. Things eventually got back even at 18 apiece before Johnson Central went on a 10-2 run to make it 28-21 with two minutes remaining in the first half.

Johnson Central was able to maintain and build on its lead, pulling out to a 36-28 advantage at halftime.

Both teams struggled in the first half with missed shots. The Golden Eagles were just 13 for 38. The Cardinals went in to halftime at just 10 of 26 on their shots.

Things heated up after the halftime break with Martin County outscoring Johnson Central 16-9, erasing the Golden Eagles lead to just one point as they headed into the final quarter, 45-44.

The back and forth continued in the final quarter, with Grant Rice laying one in to jump ahead to a 47-44 lead. Hale answered with one of his own immediately after to cut the lead back to one, forcing a Johnson Central time out.

After the break, the Golden Eagles went back to work with Ryan Rose hitting a layup.

Brady Dingess was the answer for the Cardinals. Dingess tipped in a layup with five minutes remaining to make it 48-49. Dingess drew two fouls within the next minute, hitting two free throws and giving the Cardinals a 50-49 advantage. Ryleh McKenzie hit a jumper with three minutes left and bounced the Golden Eagles back ahead, 51-50.

Dingess made a drive up the lane but missed, and Dalton was there with the rebound and the score to checkmate the Golden Eagles.

The 52-51 margin would swell in the final 2:35 of the game, with Hale hitting another three with 1:38 to make it 55-51.

Johnson Central needed possessions, but Martin County was able to make good use of its free throws, pulling ahead to a 58-54 final.

The loss puts Johnson Central at a 4-7 record for the season. They move on to face Boyd County at home on Thursday.

Jacob Butcher led the Eagles in the loss. Butcher had 14 points, 12 rebounds, one assist and four steals.

Grant Rice had 11 points, four rebounds and two assists.

Ryleh McKenzie had 10 points, four rebounds, four assists and two blocks.