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Foul trouble doesn't keep Garrison from leading Cards to Class 1 Final Four berth

CHADWICK'S CLAYTON GARRISON watches the flight of the ball after he threw it in celebration of the Cardinals' win Saturday.
CHADWICK'S CLAYTON GARRISON watches the flight of the ball after he threw it in celebration of the Cardinals' win Saturday.

As natural a physical talent as Clayton Garrison is, his most important attributes Saturday were his judgment and willpower in Chadwick’s 57-46 victory versus Richland 57-46 in a Class 1 Quarterfinal.

Garrison’s stats line that included 25 points, a 17-point second-half, 10 rebounds and two blocked shots likely would have been drastically lessened if the high-flier wouldn’t have been able to ground himself.

Garrison was whistled for two fouls less than five minutes into the game, nearly drawing a standing ovation from Richland fans who obviously had an idea who he was even before they made the 200-mile trip from Essex (almost in the Bootheel).

Garrison steered clear of trouble until a lapse in concentration early in the fourth quarter, when he picked up his third foul, followed by his fourth foul with 5:06 still left to play.

Alas, he was able to stay on the court and avoid foul number five all the way to the final buzzer.

“I knew I had to be smart,” Garrison said. “I was upset with myself. (Coach Shawn Guerin) was pretty mad at me. But I knew I'd be okay because I've been in situations like that before. I like jumping and blocking shots. But I had to stop trying to block shots. That kind of hurt us on the defensive side and we had to fall back into a zone.

“(On offense), I seen they were trying to go for more charges in the paint,” he added. “They were coming up and trying to guard me harder and try to take a charge.”

Garrison didn’t back off from penetrating into the paint, but did so with restrained aggression and flexible maneuverability.

“When I see people, I try to move my body around them and get a layup,” he said. “I felt like I did pretty good job of that. But I had one (play) that they probably could have called a charge on.”

Garrison worked his way toward high-percentage shots. After a 1-for-4 start shooting from the field, he went on to make 10-of-13 shots to finish 11-of-17.

The combination of Garrison’s offense, Chadwick’s ball-handling and a killer instinct at the free-throw line made for a rather efficient offensive outing for the Cardinals.

“When they tried to press us, we got the ball down the court and made our free throws,” point guard Grady Preston said.

Chadwick held a five- to six-point lead for much of the game and extended its advantage to double digits while making 13-of-16 free throws in the fourth quarter.

Backing up Garrison were Preston with 13 points, Tristan Smith with 11 and Prestin Kinyon with eight.

Richland’s offense, which averaged 66.2 points a game, never really got rolling, as Chadwick's defense stifled the Rebels. 

“I'm proud of us,” Garrison said. “We had good close-outs. They're a good shooting team, so our close-outs had to be fast. They also like to run a high-low and we kept them out of the high post."

The Rebels didn’t enjoy a scoring run of any significance.

“We never let them get on a streak,” Smith said “South Iron went on a crazy streak (at Sectionals) against us in the third quarter. But we never let (Richland) pick up the momentum.”

On its way to State, Chadwick (26-3) won its five post-season games by an average margin of 24.2 points a game.

All this from a Cardinals squad that Class 1 District 4 coaches pegged the No. 3 seed for Districts. In knowledge known only to them, the coaches voted Eminence (16-9) the No. 1 seed and the Redwings responded by not even making it out of the semifinal round.

“If they wanted to put us a third seed, it meant we had less to lose,” Smith said. “I feel like it's better being the underdog, anyway. More people want to see the underdog win.”

“That was crazy to me. Everybody knew that we should have been the No. 1 (seed),” Garrison said. “But there was nothing we could do about it. We're proving them all wrong.”