Kunkel leads Cooper past Redemption Christian Academy, WKU signee Banton
Behind a big outing from Adam Kunkel, the Cooper High School boys’ basketball team rolled to a 75-60 win over Redemption Christian Academy (Mass.) on Saturday morning in the third-annual Wes Strader Schoolboy Classic at Warren Central High School.
Kunkel, a Belmont signee, scored a game-high 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds, while Braydon Runion finished with 21 points and six boards to lead the Jaguars (20-5 overall) to their sixth straight win.
“I tried to get to the rim early and see the ball go in and then stretch it out,” Kunkel said. “I just went from there.”
Cooper’s win spoiled the debut of Redemption Christian Academy’s Dalano Banton in Bowling Green, who’s signed to play college basketball at Western Kentucky. Despite the loss, the four-star guard scored 17 points and pulled down nine rebounds to make a good first impression on the many Hilltopper fans in attendance.
“For the first time, it was a good environment. A lot of people out here supporting me,” Banton said. “A lot of people coming to watch me and supporting me. Too bad we didn’t come away with a win, but it was a very good first step.”
Banton and RCA trailed by just three at 19-16 after the opening quarter, but the Jaguars outscored the Lions 20-12 in the second to lead 39-28 at halftime. Cooper extended its advantage to 56-42 at the end of three quarters before cruising through the fourth.
The two sides exchanged baskets throughout the opening quarter.
At the 3:23 mark of the first, Cooper held a tight 12-11 lead before being clinging to a 19-16 advantage after one. Kunkel was already up to nine points, while Banton had two points and five rebounds.
After a basket by Banton tied the game at 21-21 at the 5:50 mark of the second, but Cooper responded with a run that gave them a 31-25 lead. From there, the momentum continued to shift to the Jaguars, as they were up 39-28 at the break.
“We always play against big stars and coach does a great job of getting us ready and getting us prepared for what we’ve gotta do to get a win,” Kunkel said. “We had to crowd him and get the ball out of his hands, and that’s what we did.”
Kunkel had 11 points at intermission, and Cooper knocked down six three-pointers in the first half. Banton was up to six points and eight rebounds for the Lions after two complete quarters.
It was all Cooper in the ensuing half.
The Jaguars built a 46-32 lead early into the third quarter, and then took a 56-42 advantage into the final period. Redemption Christian Academy was able to cut its deficit to 60-48 with 4:15 remaining, but it wasn’t enough for a comeback.
“I was just wanna see us staying together and playing as a team,” said Kunkel of what he wants from his Jaguars’ team entering postseason play. “We’ve just gotta go out and play for one another. I think we’ll be good going down the stretch.”