T.J. Morgan, Jobe Publishing, Inc.
The 16th district champion Metcalfe County Hornets took on 15th district runner up Barren County Tuesday night at E.A. Diddle Arena in the first round of the 4th region tournament. Neither fan base took the region trip for granted, filling seats on both sides of Diddle. While Barren County would control the tip and take a lead in the opening minutes of the game, it was the Hornets who would find the momentum and jump out to an early lead, stretching it to 17-9 after the end of the first quarter. Metcalfe would tack on more to open up the second, pulling out to a controlling 23-11 lead. The 12-point margin would be cut to five by the half, as Barren would finish the second quarter on a run, bringing the game to a closer 30-25. Wyatt Blythe, 11 points at the half, and Cade Button, 8 points at the half, would both find success taking their man to the basket early in the game.
Metcalfe and Barren would swap baskets like punches in a heavy-weight bout throughout the 3rd quarter. While Jax Allen was held scoreless by a more than physical Barren defense in the first half, he would break loose in the third, burying his signature 15 footer on numerous possessions. If the third quarter was a heavy-weight bout, the fourth was an all-out brawl. Barren would tie the game several trips down the floor, but could never find the lead. That is until a free throw line jumper fell through with 2.4 seconds remaining putting them ahead 56-54.
Heartbreaking. While maybe not sufficient, the most appropriate way to describe the ending of a game, a season, careers, and an era. Tears were shed not just by players, coaches, and families, but by an immense amount of Hornet nation. Tuesday night would be the last time a Hornet senior class that Metcalfe County fans had grown to love would touch the floor for the program. Countless young boys and girls, made the hour trip back home sobbing, knowing their favorite Hornets had put on the maroon and white for the last time.
Senior Quinton Lopez would never physically touch the floor for the Hornets this season, but that wouldn’t stop his impact on the team. Q was a favorite teammate of every Hornet. MJ Pendleton joined the Hornets for his senior year. The big man in the middle was the second-leading rebounder for Metcalfe County this season. Senior Hunter Nutgrass brought a strong defensive presence off the bench for the Hornets. Hunter was a teammate that knew his role and was always willing to give 100% to see it done.
After not playing his junior year, Logan Phelps returned for his senior season. Logan started this season for the Hornets, knocking down big shot after big shot. Logan didn’t just bring it on offense, he was spectacular on defense in the most crucial of moments, always there to take the big charge or swipe the ball away for a steal.
Wyatt Blythe finished Tuesday night with 25 points, a career performance to cap off an excellent career. As naturally talented as they come, Wyatt may be the most explosive young man to ever wear Metcalfe across his chest. After averaging 16.3 points for Metcalfe this season, Wyatt would finish his career with 1,481 points as a Hornet, the fourth most since Metcalfe started reporting stats in 2009.
Senior Jax Allen would finish his Hornet career with 1,620 points in the maroon and white, second only to Metcalfe standout, Boston Devore, since 2009. His 20.6 points per game average this season ranks first in that time period. Jax averaged 7.6 rebounds this season, leading the team and giving him 694 career rebounds, putting him only two rebounds behind 2009 to present leader Russell Kindred. Jax also led the team in field goal percentage this season, helping him accumulate five 30-point games. Jax grew into a physically dominating player that banged with the bigs, stepped out for three, and was lethal from 15 feet. Jax always brought leadership and complete effort when he put on the Metcalfe County uniform.
The dynamic duo was part of a landscape change for Metcalfe County Boys Basketball. From the 2012 season to the 2018 season, the seven seasons preceding them, the Hornets would only record 18 wins, 2.5 a season. An era that was rock bottom for Metcalfe County. When Jax and Wyatt put on varsity uniforms for the first time for the 2019 season, the Hornets would begin a new era, recording double-digit wins for the first time in eight seasons. The next season, 2020, the Hornets would improve to .500 and not only advance to the Class A state tournament, but win the first game in Richmond since 1998. 2021 would bring a winning record and a 16th district championship, Metcalfe’s first since 2001. 2022 saw 18 Hornet victories, the most since 2008. Then this season the Hornets would win another district championship, the first Metcalfe team to win two out of three since 1997.
Metcalfe averaged 15 wins a season during the Jax & Wyatt years. During those five years, new standards were set and new years were inked into banners. No longer does one need to turn the history book back chapters to find success. These young men have played a pivotal role, on and off the court, in changing the culture around Metcalfe’s Boys’ Basketball program. They will now enter Metcalfe lore, forever legends to all those young boys and girls that grew up watching them wear the maroon and white.