Bowling Green shoots past Todd in second half for fifth consecutive region championship appearance
Todd County Central gave Bowling Green all it could for the first half and part of the third quarter, but it was just not enough to subdue the defending state champions.
Leading just 24-21 at halftime, the Purples outpaced the Rebels 47-23 in the second half for a 71-44 victory in the semifinals of the Fourth Region Tournament at E.A. Diddle Arena on Monday night.
“When you get in a game you have to adjust,” said Bowling Green head coach Derrick Clubb on what enabled his team to make the run in the second half. “If you have a mature basketball team that lets you do that—let’s you draw some stuff up and fix some things then you can have those runs. I really think it’s more of a credit to the players than anything.”
The Purples advanced to the Fourth Region Championship Game for the fifth consecutive season and the ninth time in the last 10 years with the win over the Rebels.
Bowling Green (23-10) led 16-9 at the end of the first quarter and went up 22-12 on a basket by Trevor Dennis. But the Rebels came fighting right back, scoring nine unanswered points before Isaiah Mason hit two free throws to halt the run and give the Purples a slim 24-21 lead at the intermission.
“We got up 22-12 and (Todd) didn’t quit,” Clubb said. “They hit us in the mouth those final three minutes.”
Todd County Central (19-13) carried that positive momentum over into the beginning of the third quarter, and the Rebels cut it to 26-25 after a basket by senior Nolan Barrow at the 6:20 mark.
Dennis then stepped up and hit back-to-back 3-pointers for Bowling Green to put the Purples in front 32-25, and the junior hit another 3-pointer after Jarius Key scored a basket to extend the lead to 37-25.
Sydney Johnson finally ended the Purples’ onslaught with a bucket to make the score 38-27, but Bowling Green proceeded to score nine unanswered points to take a 47-27 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Purples ran away with the victory in the final eight minutes.
Barrow led the Rebels in the loss with 11 points on a pair of 3-pointers while junior Jon Calvery had nine. Despite the loss, Todd County Central simply getting back to the regional tournament is a step in the right direction for Coach Frank Johnson and the Rebels’ program.
“The whole thing when I took this job last year was to stop being homecoming and senior night opponents,” Johnson said. “We want to get respect. I played at Todd in the day when Bowling Green, Christian County and Hoptown didn’t matter to us…we welcomed them into coming. And that’s what I have to get back. Our kids don’t know the history of Todd County basketball. All they’ve seen is the last 20 years, and right now if we can start getting that (tradition) back into the middle school levels—understand that we have pride in that county in basketball. I think if they can get to that point, we can get that respect back.”
Respect is something that the Rebels are starting to get back from others across the region.
“Coach Johnson has done a great job,” Clubb said. “We knew coming in as a coaching staff…we had saw them beat Monroe County and we knew they were very well-coached. They play extremely hard, and their big guys are as good as anybody.”
Dennis topped all Purple scorers with 19 points on 5-of-10 shooting from long range while Mason added 16 on 7-of-12 sniping from the field. Key finished with a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds for Bowling Green.
The Purples will now get ready to square off against crosstown 14th District rival Warren Central for the Fourth Region crown on Tuesday night at 6 p.m. The Dragons are back in the region final for the first time since 2015, but in a six-year stretch before that Central and Bowling Green played each other for a trip to Rupp Arena five out of six years.
“Warren Central is a big rivalry and everybody knows that,” Clubb said. “We know it will be great environment, and these guys and their guys will be excited to play that game. Most of these kids are friends and have grown up together, so it’ll be a big deal.”