Ads come from behind to beat Garrard, 63-60

McKinney faces former assistant coach

By MIKE MARSEE
Contributing Writer

Ed McKinney and Brandon Cooper sat side by side on the Danville bench for the past three seasons. The two coaches were on opposite benches Thursday night for a game that only one could win, but that both could build on.

McKinney, the Danville boys coach, said the Admirals took a step forward by overcoming obstacles to defeat a Garrard County team coached by Cooper, his former assistant.

The Admirals won a close game for the first time this season, coming from behind to defeat the Golden Lions 63-60 in a game that was as close as the bond between the two coaches.

They rallied even after their top scorer had fouled out and after they had seen a five-point lead turn into a three-point deficit.

“That’s huge,” McKinney said.

Host Danville (5-2, 1-0 district) had played only one other truly close game this season, losing by three points to Somerset six days earlier in the 12th Region All “A” Classic championship. This time, the Admirals prevailed after Channing Ford hit a runner in the free-throw lane to give them a 61-60 lead with 33 seconds remaining.

Garrard (1-4, 0-2) had outscored Danville 10-2 to take a 59-56 lead on Ethan Wall’s 3-point basket with 2:25 to play, and the Lions led 60-57 with 1:15 left before the Admirals rallied.

Cooper said it was a disappointing loss for the Lions, but he said it was also an encouraging effort.

“For us to come in and compete with a really good team like that and play hard the whole game and be right in it at the end and have a shot to win it, I mean, it’s a heartbreaker, but … this is something we can build off of,” Cooper said.

The respect between the coaches and teams was evident even before the game. As the starting lineups were introduced, each Danville starter went toward the Garrard bench to greet Cooper, who helped coach them before returning to his alma mater as head coach for this season.

“He worked hard over here,” McKinney said.

Cooper said he enjoyed his time alongside McKinney.

“We go at it. We’re good friends. I enjoy being around Ed … and I loved the kids,” Cooper said. “We have that mutual respect with each other, players and coaches.”

Cooper brought something with him that Danville had trouble dealing with in the early going, a matchup zone defense that McKinney said the Admirals hadn’t seen so far this season.

“They did a really good job with that matchup. You can get really tentative against that,” McKinney said. “But we did some good things against it, too. It seemed like we were really good against it, or really bad.”

There were 12 ties and 13 lead changes in a game in which the two teams were never separated by more than five points after Danville erased a 7-0 deficit.

Dante Hayden led Danville with 17 points before fouling out with 3:08 to play. That left Ford, who transferred from Danville Christian to Danville for his senior season, as the first option coming out of a timeout.

“He did exactly what we (told him), either reverse it or split the seam (for a shot in the lane),” McKinney said.

Ford finished with a season-high 16 points after the decisive basket. Jarius Bryant hit two of three free throws on the Admirals’ previous possession, after which they forced a Garrard turnover. Following Ford’s basket, Ethan Wood rebounded a Garrard miss and sank two free throws at :07 to set the final score. Danville successfully defended a 3-point shot by Montavian Quisenberry just before the buzzer that would have tied the game.

Danville has now won eight straight games against Garrard, but McKinney said he wasn’t surprised that the Admirals had their hands full with the Lions.

“Physically, they kind of took it to us in the first half,” he said. “I thought their kids played hard, competed hard. The future is bright for them, and Brandon’s going to do a good job.”

Cooper said the Golden Lions still have plenty of things to work on, but he said they took a step forward in this game by avoiding the kind of second-half letdown that has taken them out of at least a couple of games they have lost.

“The big thing building on this one is we put two halves together in effort,” he said. “The kids have figured out that we’ve got to put a full game together … and I’m pleased with that.”

Quisenberry led Garrard with 16 points, followed by Brandon Brooks with 12.

Cooper graduated from Garrard in 2000, and this is his second stint as the Lions’ coach. He led them to a 12-18 record in 2011-12.

In his return, he said he has found a hungry group of players.
“I know we’ve got some stuff we need to fix, and I know we’re going to keep doing that,” he said. “They want to win, I want them to win, I want to build something with them, and we know we’ve got some things going in the right direction. We’ve just got to get over the hump.

He said games like this one will help the climb.

Danville’s a good team. They’re going to be competitive all season long, and I really, truly feel, record set aside at this point, we’re going to be competitive at the end, too,” Cooper said.

KHSAA report: At the KHSAA Board of Control meeting Thursday, commissioner Julian Tackett reported that 22.5 percent of basketball games scheduled to that point were canceled or postponed.

That number is very close to the number of games called off during football season, and Tackett said it is an indication that schools are following the guidance put forth by the KHSAA and public health officials.

The number of games called off is on the rise, from about 16 percent in the first week of the season, which began Jan. 4, to about 24 percent last week to about 26 percent through the first three days of this week.

Tackett said “the vast majority” of cancellations/postponements were the result of teams going into quarantine following a positive test for COVID-19, and he said there are still no reports of transmission from one athlete to another.

Tackett also discussed possible changes for the Sweet Sixteen tournaments, which are set for March 31-April 3 (boys) and April 7-10 (girls) in Lexington. The KHSAA announced earlier this week that attendance would be capped at 15 percent of Rupp Arena capacity, but he told the board there is a chance that number could be raised to 25 to 30 percent in March.