HINDMAN, Ky. — At the end, the shots simply didn’t fall for Emmanuel Owootoah.
The Cordia point guard led his team back from a late double-digit deficit, but the Lions ultimately fell to host Knott County Central, 66-60, in Friday night’s 53rd District championship game.
Owootoah, a 2013 recruit, had 24 points, six rebounds, five assists and five steals for Cordia, which will still advance to next week’s 14th Region Tournament.
UK assistant Orlando Antigua watched Owootoah play last week, and someone from UK’s staff was expected to be at Friday’s game. But the only college coach in attendance was Seton Hall assistant Shaheen Holloway.
After the game, Owootoah listed several schools that have shown interest in recent weeks, including UK, UCLA, Baylor, Missouri, Arizona, Tennessee, Florida State, Providence, Seton Hall and Fresno State. “There’s more. I’m forgetting some,” he said.
He said he would “love” to go to a college where he could play immediately, but that isn’t the No. 1 priority.
“I’m looking for a place where I can fit in and I can grow,” Owootoah said. “The most important thing is I’m trying to get my degree. So I really am trying to stay for four years. I’m trying to find a place where I can get better.”
In Friday night’s game, Owootoah and Cordia trailed by 12 points at halftime, cut the deficit to 49-45 by the end of the third quarter, but fell behind by double digits again midway through the final period.
Owootoah, who’s listed at 5-foot-10, grabbed an offensive rebound and assisted on a layup that cut Knott Central’s lead to 59-51 with just over 4:00 to play.
With no shot clock, the Patriots tried to play stall ball. But Owootoah got two consecutive steals and hit a three-pointer from the corner to get within 59-58. Cordia then took a 60-59 lead on a layup with 1:40 left. It was the Lions’ first advantage since early in the first quarter, but it was also the last time they scored.
Owootoah missed a pull-up jumper with 1:00 left, and Knott Central star Camron Justice made two free throws over the next 30 seconds to give the Patriots a 62-60 lead. Owootoah had another opportunity but missed a fadeway jumper over Justice with 20 seconds remaining.
“Down the stretch, I should have made those shots,” Owootoah said. “Those are routine shots I practice. I guess there was just a lid on the basket today.”
Cordia got one more chance.
Down three points with 10.4 seconds remaining, Owootoah dribbled down the court and found teammate Zachary Owens for an open three-pointer. The attempt rimmed out, Knott Central got the rebound and hit a three at the buzzer to set the winning margin.
Justice, a sophomore guard, led Knott Central with 24 points and eight rebounds. He was 6-for-11 from the field and 10-for-13 from the free-throw line.
Justice, who was named the 53rd District player of the year after the game, will play with the new Kentucky Travelers team this summer. The Travelers will compete on the Nike EYBL circuit.