The two teams at the pinnacle of high school basketball in the 10th Region (and the state) are George Rogers Clark and Mason County. Since 1966 when the Cardinals joined the 10th Region and since 1961 when the Royals started a new school, the two blue bloods have now won the regional title a combined 28 times. Mason County won the Sweet 16 in 2003 and 2008, with Clark County winning in 1951 and 2022.
“The battle, man. Two good teams. Two great programs with a lot of great tradition, and some great players on the floor. Our guys made plays at the right time and showed toughness through adversity,” said GRC head coach Josh Cook.
These two teams did not meet in the regular season. The last time they played was in last year’s 10th Region semifinals, where GRC won 57-45, before winning the Sweet 16®. Mason County led the all-time series 41-36 coming into the game.
Clark County has a storied history since the school began as part of the 16th Region. In total, the Cardinals have 24 region titles and two state championships in 1951 and 2022.
With the Cardinals’ 54-42 win over Mason County, they now have thirteen 10th Region titles in their trophy case.
Trent Edwards, a 6’8” senior, started off the scoring for George Rogers Clark with a dunk.
With one minute left in the first, Terrell Henry picked up his second foul. Coach Kirk decided to leave his best player in the game and take the gamble.
Then, Reshaun Hampton made a three to give GRC back the lead, and followed up with a layup with 18 seconds left to end the first quarter, 13-9.
“We struggled during the first quarter defending the ball screen,” said Mason County coach Brian Kirk.
In the second, Clark County further extended their lead after back-to-back-to-back buckets by the Cardinal trio of Morton, Edwards, Parrish. The three seniors averaged 51.8 of the team’s 77.0 points per game this season.
With 6:33 until the half, Clark led Mason 19-9.
Mason County closed the gap with two threes from juniors Carter McClanahan and Braylon Hamilton. Last week versus Paris, Hamilton made 10 threes, breaking the school record for most threes in a game. For this game, he was 1/4.
KG Walton would drive to the lane and make a contested layup to make the score 27-21, Royals trailing the Cardinals at the half.
Jerone Morton ended the half with 10 points, while holding Terrell Henry to just 2. GRC only shot one free throw in the first half going 0/1, while Mason County was 2/2. Clark had 20 of their 27 points in the paint, while Mason had 10.
“We just tried to keep Henry out of the paint and off the foul line,” said Cook.
Mason County would come out of the locker room hot. Terrell Henry would hit a three, followed by Philip Bierley’s layup and Riley Mastin’s two free throws. It was a 7-0 run for the Royals, tying the game at 27 with 3:16 left in the third quarter.
With 42.0 on the clock, Terrell Henry was fouled and hit the bucket and the free throw, putting the Royals within one, 33-32.
“We made some adjustments there at halftime. I thought our adjustments were great. We come out, go on a seven point run and actually take the lead by one,” said Kirk.
The Mason County Fieldhouse crowd came alive. The Royals had a lifetime record of 758-232 (76.5) in their historic 10th Region home gymnasium.
Coach Josh Cook knew they were coming into a loud road environment, but he was more worried about his players hearing him.
“I knew it was gonna be tough and they’re a good team, but it’s a great environment and a blessing to be a part of. I knew they couldn’t hear me so I was trying to be trying to save my voice as much as I could.”
Mason County outscored Clark 11-7 in the third, bringing the score to 34-32 Cards with eight minutes left until someone claimed their spot in the Sweet 16.
Reshaun Hampton scored the first two points of the fourth on two layups in the first minute. Clark had extended their lead to 42-32 with 5:14 left in the game.
“We helped our guys get some buckets by executing a few sets,” said Cook.
Out of the timeout, Terrell Henry went to the line making 1 of 2 to give Mason County their first points of the fourth with 4:46 left.
Clark would respond by scoring four more points, going on a 15-1 run after Jerone Morton’s basket and one to end the third. The Cardinals’ lead was now 46-33 with 3:37 left.
Mason County tried to battle back but Clark kept answering. The final score: George Rogers Clark 53, Mason County 42.
Mason County would have 11 turnovers in the second half after only having three in the first thanks to Clark County pressure. Being one of the bigger teams Mason County had played all year, GRC was able to score 38 points in the paint.
George Rogers Clark is the first team to four-peat as 10th Region Champions since Maysville did it from 1945-1948.
Josh Cook is now tied with Woodie Crum, Allen Feldhaus, Mike Reitz, Chris O’Hearn, and Aric Russell for second most 10th Region Championships with 4. Earle D. Jones is number one with 8 at Maysville.
Cook said even after number four, the feeling never gets old.
“There’s nothing like it. You see the guys’ excitement. You see a bunch of young individuals, teenage kids, that sacrifice. At that point, nobody cares how many points are scored. They are just happy they did it together and that’s worth fighting for. I’ll fight for that ‘till the day I decide I don’t want to coach anymore.”
With a lot of outside noise coming at the defending State Champions, coach Cook’s message has been focus and selflessness.
“Just focus on us. It’s all part of it. Our program has taught kids to be a part of something bigger than themselves. If you sacrifice you will be rewarded.”
One of those players who made sacrifices is Jerone Morton. The senior is committed to Morehead State next year and was named MVP of the Sweet 16 last year. However, he was not an outright pick for either of the region’s player of the year awards.
“He’s a special player, leader, and most importantly a winner,” said Cook. “The best should be defined by championships, and that’s Jerone Morton.”
Morton could average much more than 20 points per game if he wanted to, however, he sacrificed his stats by sharing the ball with teammates.
Jerone Morton ends his career at second all-time in scoring in 10th Region Tournament history with 264 points. Chris Lofton is number one with 278 points. Morton is also the all-time leading scorer in Clark County history with over 2,600 career points.
Mason County’s season ends at 29-6. They lose five seniors and over 50 points per game: Terrell Henry, Riley Mastin, KG Walton, Philip Bierley, and Grant Owens.
Brian Kirk choked up when talking about those five seniors: “I’m losing five special kids. I mean, not because they’re all great basketball players but because they’re five great young men you know, it hurts but those kids have a lot of success, a bright future ahead of them. Some of them may go on to college, some of them may go straight to the workforce. You know those are my kids. And you know, I’m going to continue to support him.”
Kirk said in the postgame interview with WFTM, “Our key question is effort from our guys, and they gave us everything we asked for. Not just only on one occasion, one night, one game; my kids have given me everything that I’ve asked for since October 15th. You’ve got a group of kids that come in every single day and bust their tails, work hard, challenge each other, and have a good attitude. They just do the little things right. Taking care of class and going to school on time. Those little things right there mean a lot more to me as a coach than one game.”
George Rogers Clark moves on to the 2023 UK HealthCare Boys’ Basketball Sweet 16®. The Cardinals will face North Laurel on Thursday, March 16th at 8:30 p.m. in Rupp Arena. North Laurel is led by Kentucky commit Reed Sheppard.
GRC — 10-17-7-20–54
MC — 9-12-11-10–42
George Rogers Clark (54) — Jerone Morton 20, Reshaun Hampton 12, Trent Edwards 12, Sam Parrish 8, Tyleik Maxwell 2.
Mason County (42) — Terrell Henry 13, Riley Mastin 11, KG Walton 7, Braylon Hamilton 7, Carter McClanahan 3, Philip Bierley 1
George Rogers Clark — Jerone Morton, Reshaun Hampton, Sam Parrish, Trent Edwards.
Mason County — Terrell Henry, KG Walton, Braylon Hamilton.
10th Region Championships:
Mason County (15) — 81, 82, 85, 87, 92, 93, 94, 02, 03, 04, 06, 08, 09, 10, 16.
George Rogers Clark (13) — 68, 69, 83, 86, 89, 90, 07, 11, 12, 20, 21, 22, 23.
Mason County (28)
George Rogers Clark (23)
Championship Appearances Versus:
(12) — 68, 69, 81, 83, 86, 94, 03, 06, 09, 10, 12, 23.
Mason County (41)
George Rogers Clark (35)