Sometimes Cinderella stories write themselves.
Playing just their fourth game of the season and third in two days following the Dec. 10 tornado that defaced their city, the Mayfield Cardinals delivered an early Christmas present to its small town on Wednesday afternoon in the Agrigold Christmas tournament.
Trailing the North Bullitt Eagles 51-50 with 1.8 seconds to play, Mayfield sophomore guard Braydon Pate, with ice in his veins, knocked down the buzzer-beater corner three to propel the Cardinals to the 53-51 victory.
“Number one, that was a great pass to set me up, and number two, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to shoot that if it wasn’t for coach (Croft) telling me to let it ride,” Pate said. “As soon as I saw the ball, I started cheesing and had a thought in my head like ‘what an opportunity.’ I shot it, knocked it down and went crazy.”
The Cardinals got off to a hot start against the Eagles, using a pair of treys from Pate and junior forward Nolan Fulton to take a 19-18 lead at the end of one quarter.
In the second frame, scoring slowed for each team as Mayfield matched North Bullitt’s eight points to take a narrow 26-25 lead at the halftime break.
Big man Demarco Gammons helped the Cardinals keep pace with the Eagles in the third quarter, crashing the boards and dominating the paint en route to six third quarter points.
Knotted at 40-all heading into the fourth, Mayfield head coach Payton Croft and the Cardinals looked to close things out.
Sloppy play on both ends to open the quarter left the score tied at 40 at the six and a half minute mark but Mayfield remained patient as it worked its way to a 44-40 advantage on a pair of buckets in the paint from Fulton and Gammons.
Following a North Bullitt timeout, the Eagles came back with a vengeance, rattling off a 9-0 run to take a daunting 49-44 lead with just over three minutes to play.
A pair of free throws from Pate and a game-tying three ball from freshman guard Owen Webb helped the Cardinals tie the game at 49-all.
Following a two-point basket by the Eagles and a 1-2 mark at the charity stripe by Mayfield sophomore guard Brajone Dabney, the Cardinals sent North Bullitt to the free throw line for a one-and-one opportunity trailing 51-50.
Despite missing the front end, the Eagles corralled the rebound, forcing the Cardinals into fouling and allowing another one-and-one chance.
With luck on their side, the Cardinals managed to haul in the second consecutive missed free throw attempt, giving Croft a chance to draw up one final play.
At the first inbound play, Mayfield had 9.8 seconds, but the Eagles had three fouls to give, dwindling the clock down to just 1.8 to play with the ball being inbounded from the coach’s box.
Following a pair of timeouts from both teams, Webb found Pate in the corner for the game-winning dagger, sending the Cardinals home with a 2-1 record for the tournament.
Following the win, Croft said this win was all about refusing to fold in the face of adversity.
“I’m not going to lie, I was very emotional because of what’s gone on within our community over the last two weeks,” Croft said. “I’ve seen and heard people use the tornado as an excuse for things, but that’s not us, that’s not Mayfield basketball, and that’s not Mayfield as a community. We don’t want that excuse, it’s just adversity, and as our shirts say, “adversity creates opportunity.’”
Croft went on to add that his team will continue to use whatever roadblocks enter their path as a chance to build and get better each day.
“Whatever gets in our way, we’re going to find a way to use it to make us stronger as a team. These guys have been through it, so for them to continue to fight and hang in there at the end and execute that play, that’s special stuff. This group of kids deserves it, I couldn’t be any more proud for them.”
Mayfield 19 8 13 13 53
North Bullitt 18 8 14 11 51
Mayfield: Gammons 16, Pate 11, Fulton 9, Stone 9, Webb 7, Dabney 1.
Field goals: 21. 3-pointers: 4 (Pate (3), Fulton and Webb). Free throws: 4-8. Rebs: 34. Asts: 16. TO: 17. Fouls: 9. Record: 2-2.
North Bullitt: Boley 14, McCabe 11, Geary 10, Alexander 7, Sievert 5, Loyall 4.
Field goals: 20. 3-pointers: 7 (Gear (2), McCabe (2), Alexander, Boley and Sievert). Free throws: 4-9. Rebs: 24. Asts: 16. TO: 10. Fouls: 9. Record: 2-10.