A day after scoring 19 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter and overtime against Covington Holmes, Hawkins was back at it again Saturday in the KHSAA Boys Sweet 16 semifinals. This time, the mild-mannered senior guard ditched the Clark Kent glasses for 15 of his 30 points in the final stanza to lead the Indians to a 60-56 win over Hopkinsville.
Hawkins' clutch performance sent Madison Central (31-5) to the state championship game for the first time in school history. The 11th Region champions will face Louisville Ballard, who defeated Montgomery County 59-55 in Saturday's second semifinal game, on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET in Rupp Arena.
"I'm just glad everyone's had an opportunity to see (Hawkins) now," Madison Central coach Allen Feldhaus Jr. said. "I think a lot of people really didn't know the true Dominique Hawkins the way I've known the true Dominique Hawkins the last four years, and I think they truly understand what I'm talking about now.
"Not with him scoring 30 points, just the type of kid he is. You can tell when he's out on the floor, his work ethic, and when he's talking the media, I think everybody understands now what I've been talking about. He's a great basketball player, but he's an even better person. I don't know what other attributes you'd want for ‘Mr. Basketball' other than that."
The 6-foot-1 Hawkins made a strong case for the award in helping Madison Central rally from an eight-point halftime deficit and a 12-point hole with 1:35 remaining in the third quarter.
"We've been in that situation before, so there wasn't any pressure on us," said Hawkins, who has now scored 86 points in three games and could move into the all-time Sweet 16 top 10 with at least 28 points in the championship game. "I was talking to some of my teammates and telling them, ‘It's alright. We're going to get back into this game. Everything's going to be OK.' Down in the fourth quarter, we just showed that we've got good heart. We just fight to the end."
Dominique Hawkins pushed the ball on the break. (FOX Sports Photo by Jeff Drummond.)
Hawkins hit 12 of 14 free throws in the final quarter, including two with five seconds remaining to clinch the victory, and finished the game at 17 of 20.
"He shot 20 to tie our team," Hopkinsville coach Timothy Haworth said. "He was really aggressive trying to get to the free throw line. That's what a great player does."
"When you shoot 30 percent," Feldhaus said of his team's uncharacteristic 14-of-46 day from the field, "you better hit your free throws.
"There's very few games where we don't shoot more free throws than our opponent, and that's because we attack the rack… That keeps pressure on the defense, and if you got the right guy up there shooting it – (Hawkins) and Ken-Jah (Bosley) are both 75, 76-percent shooters – those are the guys we want on the line."
Hawkins' only non-free throw of the fourth quarter was a huge 3-pointer off the dribble with 3:29 remaining after Hopkinsville had pulled within one.
The huge performance by Hawkins (who also had a team-high 10 rebounds and three steals) helped compensate for an off-day by backcourt mate Bosley, who went 3-for-19 from the field and 0-for-10 from beyond the arc in finishing with 13 points. Bosley had averaged 21 points in the Indians' first two Sweet 16 victories.
"I knew Dominique and Quan (Taylor) and the rest of the team would have my back," Bosley said.
Taylor, a senior forward, scored eight points, grabbed five rebounds and blocked two shots for the Indians.
Had it not been for Hawkins' heroics, Jordan Majors would have been the talk of the tournament Saturday night. Hopkinsville's senior wing scored 31 points, dished out five assists and recorded three steals for the 2nd Region champs, whose season ended at 33-5.
"I think he's the most underrated player in the state," Haworth said of Majors, who may accept an offer to walk on with UK.
LOUISVILLE BALLARD 59
MONTGOMERY COUNTY 55
Ballard's Kelan Martin scored a game-high 23 points and pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds for the Bruins. (FOX Sports Photo by Jeff Drummond.)
A Sweet 16 semifinal record crowd of 20,172 was treated to a pair of games that came down to the wire. In the nightcap, tourney favorite Ballard broke open a 51-51 tie with 4:19 remaining, using an 8-1 run to turn back a spirited effort from the 10th Region champions.
Kelan Martin scored six of his game-high 23 points in the decisive run to help lead Ballard (32-4) into the title game. The 6-foot-6, 225-pound junior forward also pulled down a game-high 14 rebounds for the 7th Region champs, who will be seeking their fourth state championship on Sunday.
"He's a tremendous player. I think people saw tonight why he's a beast," Ballard coach Chris Renner said of Martin.
Martin's performance helped overcome a subpar scoring game from Bruin star Quentin Snider, a University of Louisville commitment. Snider finished with only eight points on 3-for-14 shooting, but played a strong floor game with five assist and no turnovers in 31 minutes of action.
Ballard shot only 39 percent from the field, including a 2-for-15 night from 3-point range. The Bruins also went 9-for-18 at the free throw line, but made up for it by winning the rebounding battle 37-28 and turning 16 offensive rebounds into 18 second-chance points. They also converted 16 Montgomery County turnovers into 20 points.
Montgomery County (33-5) got 15 points from "Mr. Basketball" finalist Omar Prewitt and 15 from guard Tyler Jones. Bryan Wallace and Julian Piersawl added 13 and 10, respectively, for the Indians.
"I'm tremendously proud of our young men," Montgomery coach Happy Osborne said. "I don't think anyone who wasn't with us day by day knows how far our team came."