In a display of sheer determination and skill, the Great Crossing Warhawks etched their name in the history books by securing their first-ever King of the Bluegrass (KOB) title. In a closely contested final against the Little Rock Central Tigers, the Warhawks emerged victorious with a 54-47 win, becoming the first KOB champion from the 11th Region since Madison Central's triumph in 1998.
The championship game at the 2023 Gardner Law King of the Bluegrass was a tale of two halves, with each team showcasing periods of dominance. Little Rock Central came out of the gates strong, quickly building a 13-4 lead within the first six minutes, putting Great Crossing on the back foot. However, the Warhawks, undeterred by the early setback, stitched together a 9-3 run in the opening minutes of the second quarter, closing the gap to a mere three points at 16-13.
The momentum swung in favor of Great Crossing when Junius Burrell landed a critical 3-pointer, giving them a narrow 19-18 lead over the Tigers, with 2:54 left in the second quarter. By halftime, Great Crossing had established a 24-20 lead, a remarkable turnaround from their early struggles.
The third quarter saw Great Crossing's Malachi Moreno shine. Moreno, who would later be crowned the Bob White Most Valuable Player, extended the Warhawks' lead with a 3-pointer followed by a sensational putback dunk, pushing the score to 29-20. Little Rock Central, which had previously led 15-8 in the first quarter, found themselves trailing 40-30 at the end of the third.
As the final quarter unfolded, Little Rock Central attempted a valiant comeback. Chase Allen's basket narrowed the gap to 42-36 with 5:45 left on the clock. Despite C.J. Washington's putback dunk bringing the Tigers within four points, Great Crossing maintained their composure and control, leading 48-40 with just over two minutes remaining. That was as close as Little Rock Central would get.
Apart from Moreno's stellar performance, Great Crossing's victory was bolstered by significant contributions from Vince Dawson, III, and Junius Burrell, both named to the All-Tournament Team for their impressive displays throughout the championship.
On the other side, Little Rock Central's Annor Boateng, honored as the Stanley Hardin Most Outstanding Player, finished with 10 points. Teammates Daniel Culberson and C.J. Washington, who scored 15 and 8 points respectively and made crucial rebounds, were also named to the All-Tournament Team.