MURFREESBORO — Cadon Buckles might not have won Mr. Basketball, but he helped Hampton move closer to the hardware he’d much rather bring back to Carter County anyway.
With Buckles’ help, Hampton built a commanding lead in the first half and never let up, cruising to the Class 1A state semifinals once again with Wednesday’s 71-48 quarterfinal triumph over Humboldt at MTSU’s Murphy Center.
Buckles scored 13 points by the end of the first quarter and quickly added to his point total with three layups in the first 2:31 of the third period before converting steals by Hayden Campbell and Dylan Trivett into fast-break buckets.
Buckles, who shot 11-of-18 with a pair of 3-pointers, finished with 29 points to lead Hampton (27-8).
“Coming in here, it’s a little nerve wracking, but we settled in quick,” Buckles said. “I’ve not really thought about (Mr. Basketball) much. Our main goal is to win the state championship. The goal wasn’t to win Mr. Basketball. All of our goals are still in front of us.”
Hampton shot 51.9% from the field (27-of-52), going 5-of-13 from 3-point range.
Michael Anspaugh accounted for the Bulldogs’ other three triples, all in the first half. He went 3-of-5 from deep and scored 15 points, while dishing out a team-high five assists.
“Coach is always telling me to shoot it,” Anspaugh said. “They were throwing me (the ball), and I was just ready.”
Anspaugh made back-to-back 3s in the second quarter for a 34-17 Bulldog advantage, and Humboldt never got closer than 14 again.
Humboldt’s 6-foot-6 sophomore center Stephon Shivers has garnered Southeastern Conference attention in football, even receiving an offer from Arkansas.
While he did grab a game-high 13 rebounds, Geno Carrico and Campbell helped Hampton limit Shivers to eight points. Campbell led both teams in blocked shots with six.
“We just kept going back and forth,” Carrico said. “One covers the top, and if they throw it baseline to go low, the other comes to get the steal. We just dared them to throw it to him without us getting it.”
And it worked, as Carrico and Campbell both had three of Hampton’s 14 steals. Carrico shot 7-of-11 himself and scored 14 points, with Trivett grabbing a game-high five steals.
Fredrick Moore shot 10-of-15 and led the Vikings (19-12) with 23 points.
The Bulldogs forced 20 turnovers while committing just eight — not to mention their 29-9 advantage in points off turnovers. Hampton also won the battle of fast-break points 18-8.
“I thought our kids came out with good composure, excited to be down here, but they played with composure, just played super on defense,” Hampton coach Ned Smith said. “Got a lot of film on (Moore and Shivers). They’re tough, really good inside, athletic. We just tried to jam it up inside for them and block out the best we could.”
Carrico’s midrange jumper ended a 9-0 run and gave Hampton a 15-8 lead. Buckles then followed Anspaugh’s first 3-pointer with two fast-break layups to make it 22-11.
Hampton scored the first eight points of the third and fourth quarters, the latter building a 60-35 lead.
Hampton takes on Chattanooga Prep, a 57-49 winner over Fayetteville, in Friday’s semifinal. Tip is at 2:15 p.m. EDT.