Wait Over | BG beats Cooper to win first state basketball championship
LEXINGTON – Entering the second half of Sunday’s 100th Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys Sweet Sixteen championship game at Rupp Arena, Terry Taylor had just two points and couldn’t seem to get into his normal rhythm.
The senior forward wasn’t going to let his final high school basketball game end with him not contributing to his team as he usually does.
Taylor turned things on in the second half – especially in the third quarter – as he went on to add 14 points to the two he recorded in the first half to finish with 16 points and 10 boards in the second title game he played in for Bowling Green, who defeated Cooper 67-56 to win its first-ever state title and close the season on a 29-game winning streak.
“I think it’s just how the game flowed,” Taylor said of starting slow and eventually finding his game. “I just came out (in the second half) and had to help my team – and that’s what happened.”
Bowling Green (36-2 overall) shot 51 percent (18-of-35) from the field and outrebounded Cooper 29-17 – including a 7-4 advantage on the offensive glass. The Purples went 24-of-30 (80 percent) from the free-throw line and never trailed on the day.
“It’s just amazing to go out my senior year with this and give Bowling Green its first state championship,” Taylor stated.
The Purples led 16-11 after one and 30-21 at halftime, respectively, but Cooper (31-5) went on a 7-0 run to begin the fourth quarter to make it a close affair. BG responded by knocking down nine free throws in the final six minutes to seal the deal.
Bowling Green jumped out to an early 5-0 lead on a pair of Harmon free-throws and a three-pointer by the eighth-grader, but Cooper’s Brayden Runion hit a three of his of his own on the other end to make it 5-3 at the 5:33 mark of the first quarter.
At the first media timeout, the Purples’ led 10-5, as Harmon already had 8 points, powered by two deep balls. Following the timeout, Bowling Green increased its advantage to eight, however back-to-back Sean McNeil threes helped the Jaguars cut their deficit to just two at 13-11, but trailed 16-11 after one.
Adam Kunkel’s three-point jumper at the top of the key to open the second quarter brought Cooper to within two at 16-14, but a quick 5-0 run by Bowling Green put it up seven with 5:06 remaining in the first half. Trey Jones’ turnaround jumper soon made it 23-14 at the 3:58 mark.
Wilson splashed his second three with 1:29 left and followed it with a buzzer-beating floater to help the Purples carry a 30-21 advantage into the locker room at halftime.
At the break, Harmon was leading all scorers with 11 points while Wilson had eight. McNeil carried Cooper with 9 points, all coming off of three-pointers.
The Purples shot 48 percent (10-of-21) from the field in the first half while the Jaguars went 8-of-19 (42 percent). BG outrebounded Cooper 19-4, including a 5-2 edge on the offensive glass while also forcing the Jaguars into four turnovers and scoring four points off those.
Wilson continued to find ways to score, as he opened the third with a tough layup over multiple Cooper defenders. A pair of Taylor free-throws and then a layup from the big man increased Bowling Green’s lead to 36-23 at the 6:06 mark of the quarter.
McNeil’s three with 4:46 remaining in the period brought Cooper to within eight at 36-28, but Taylor matched it on the other end. A pair of Taylor foul shots soon had the Purples back up double digits, leading 41-30 at the 3:08 mark.
“He (head coach D.G. Sherrill) told us that they (Cooper) were a good five-out team and were gonna try and spread us out and drive and get me and Ky(ran Jones) away from the basket so they could dictate the boards and the pace of the game,” Taylor added.
“But we were able to come out and not let them dictate the pace of the game and crash the boards. He wanted us to get early paint touches so our guards could have an easier game.”
McNeil poured in a game-high 20 points – 18 off of threes – to carry Cooper.
Taylor went on to score 11 points in the third alone to give him 13 and 8 rebounds and BG a 45-33 advantage entering the final quarter.
Cooper made things interesting early into the fourth after Dante Hendrix connected on a three and Runion made a pair of free-throws, cutting Bowling Green’s lead to 45-40 with 5:51 remaining. Kyran Jones’ three and his brother, Trey Jones’ open layup in transition soon gave BG a 54-43 lead with 2:57 left.
“I’m proud of him, man,” Trey said of Kyran. “We went out with a bang. I’m going to miss him, but we’ve gotta get back here, man.”
The Purples could sense the championship trophy being in their hands with 2:04 left after Harmon made his eighth and ninth free-throws of the contest, which put them up 58-43 with 2:27 remaining.
Wilson may have split a pair of free-throws in the final minute, but it didn’t matter, as Bowling Green was well in control and moments away from celebrating its spectacular season.
“I’m feeling great,” Trey Jones added. “It’s unbelievable.”