I'd have posted something about this sooner, but I'm ashamed to say I'm a bit out of the loop up here in Cleveland as to what goes on in my hometown... But, my mom told me the happy news last night about my old high school and Georgetown, my birthplace and lifelong home. Go Cards! It's really quite something... the magnitude of the Boys Sweet 16 for the state of Kentucky.

Bud and the boys script perfect ending
By Mike Fields
HERALD-LEADER STAFF WRITER

Mike FieldsThis Bud's for you, Scott County, and so is another boys' Sweet Sixteen championship.

Bud Mackey rescued No. 1 Scott County when its hopes for another state basketball title were slipping away against No. 2 Ballard in the finals of the National City State Tournament last night.

A Rupp Arena crowd of 18,377 was ready to concede the crown to Ballard when it led 49-44 with less than five minutes left. Nothing was going right for Scott County. Star guards Mackey and Matt Walls were struggling mightily, and Coach Billy Hicks was stalking the sidelines with his the-world-is-coming-to-an-end scowl.

Then Bud caught lightning in a bottle.

The mercurial junior, who has committed to Indiana University, scored nine points down the stretch to spark Scott County to a 56-50 victory and its second state title in 10 years.

"I wanted to win, so I kept saying to myself, 'Lead 'em to the promised land, Bud,'" he said.

First, he hit a pull-up jumper to make it 49-46. After Ballard's Johonne Hamilton hit one of two free throws, Mackey drilled a three-pointer from the left corner to make it 50-49.

"Bud just lit up when he hit that three," Walls said. "I knew right then he had control of this ball game."

After a Ballard turnover, Mackey sank a pair of free throws to give Scott County a 51-50 lead, the first time it was in front since early in the second quarter.

He wasn't through yet.

After Ballard missed a pair of free throws, Mackey went on a daring drive into the lane and hit a leaner to give the Cards a 53-50 lead with under two minutes left.

That, as it turned out, was the clincher. Ballard was in a tailspin during which it scored one point over the last 4:57.

Walls and Cam Hundley would hit clinching free throws in the closing seconds, but Ballard had already been buried by Bud.

It was a dramatic turnaround from the first half when Mackey got in early foul trouble and scored only two points.

Hicks, who said he "loves Bud like a son," lectured him in the locker room at halftime.

"He gave it to me good," Mackey said. "He told me I was a veteran and had to step up my game, and to quit crying 'cause they ain't gonna give me nothing."

Hicks wasn't sure the message got through "because Bud looked kinda bleak. But then he came out and took his game to a whole new level.

"And when Bud takes it to a whole new level, he takes it to a heckuva level."

Mackey, who had only 31 points in Scott County's first three games this week, poured in 20 in the second half last night, including 11 in a gut-check fourth quarter, to earn MVP honors.

"No way was I gonna let us lose," he said.

Mackey's heroics provided the perfect end to what Hicks called "a magical season."

The Cards were rated No. 1 in the pre-season polls and Ballard was No. 2. The two powers collided the first week of the season, and Scott County blasted Ballard by 21 points to reaffirm its top ranking.

"We loved being No. 1," Mackey said, "because we loved all the expectations."

Over the next four months the Cards played a brutal schedule, but came out virtually unscathed. They lost twice to out-of-state teams, including No. 1 national power Huntington, W. Va., a team it also beat.

Scott County sported a 29-0 record against Kentucky teams going into last night's final, and it was no surprise the opponent was Ballard, which was riding a 26-game winning streak.

"We knew for certain we'd see them again," Mackey said.

The rematch was nothing like that Dec. 1 rout in Georgetown. This time Scott County was pushed to the brink before Mackey seized the moment.

"It's all about heart and determination," Mackey said. "If you wanna win it, you gotta go get it."

Thank the basketball gods, Scott County. This Bud's for you.