Boyle, Lincoln boys rally to reach title game

Published 9:47 am Friday, February 24, 2023


Contributing Writer

STANFORD — Since before the basketball season began, coaches have been talking about how difficult it would be to get out of the 45th District.

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This is what they were talking about.

Boyle County and Lincoln County survived grueling elimination games Wednesday night to emerge from a compacted field of five contenders as the two teams that will survive the boys 45th District Tournament.

Boyle outslugged Garrard County in the fourth quarter, using a 12-1 run late in the game to come from behind.

Earlier, host Lincoln shut out Danville in overtime for a 55-51 victory following its own fourth-quarter comeback.

The semifinal victories by the top-seeded Patriots and the second-seeded Rebels put the two teams into the district title game for the third consecutive season and the 12th time in the past 20 years.

Three of the four games in the first two rounds of the tournament were decided by a total of 11 points, and two went to overtime, including Danville’s 63-61 victory over Danville Christian on Monday.

“This district is ridiculous,” Boyle coach Dennie Webb said. “There’s no easy outs in this district this year, and it showed tonight in both games. It just shows you this district is the best in the region this year in my opinion, hands down.”

Boyle and Lincoln will play for the championship at 7 p.m. Friday, and both teams will move on to next week’s regional tournament.

Boyle County 74, Garrard County 69

Under assault by the district’s leading scorer, Ethan Cooper of Garrard, Boyle held him to five points and the Golden Lions to nine points in the fourth quarter.

Cooper matched his career high with 38 points, but the Rebels’ defense took a toll on the senior guard and his teammates down the stretch.

“Ethan Cooper just about beat us singlehandedly. That was a fabulous performance on his part,” Webb said. “We let them get in the flow and let him get happy, but we stayed with it and kept plugging to the end.”

Boyle (15-13) has won its last 11 games against Garrard (13-18), but none of its three wins this season came easy. The Rebels won regular-season meetings by one and three points, and they trailed 60-55 when the fourth quarter started Wednesday.

The Lions got only two field goals in the fourth quarter and shot 33 percent from the field in the second half after shooting 55 percent in the first.

“We made plays and finally sped them up and got some turnovers,” Webb said. “We just tried to trap (Cooper) and get the ball out of his hands and not get him back … and tried to pressure the other guys on the perimeter.”

Garrard coach Brandon Cooper, Ethan’s father, said fatigue started to take a toll on his son, and he said it became more of a problem when Braden Fugate, the Lions’ secondary ball-handler, fouled out.

“We turned the ball over left and right at the end of the game,” Brandon Cooper said. “We ran Ethan to death the entire game. I didn’t really expect that he was going to be able to blow by five people at the end of the game. I was just hoping we could maintain long enough to stay in it and hopefully come out one point ahead.”

Montavin Quisenberry scored 27 points for Boyle, and three other Rebels scored in double figures.

Kason Myers, who had 16 points, got his only 3-point basket of the game with 51 seconds left to give Boyle a 71-66 lead, and missed shots on Garrard’s next two possessions doomed the Lions.

Guy Turner went 4 for 6 from 3-point range and scored 15 points for the Rebels, who shot 52 percent from the field. Jakei Tarter added 11 points and had 18 of his team’s 36 rebounds, including nine offensive boards.

Ethan Cooper, who is ranked among the top 20 scorers in the state at 25.2 points per game, hit six of 11 3-point attempts in a 26-point first half, and he finished 13 for 27 overall from the field and also had six assists.

He scored 19 of Garrard’s 25 points in the second quarter, hitting his first seven shots in the period to help the Lions take their largest lead at 40-33.

Mason Sulla had 11 points for Garrard, which was trying to reach the regional for the first time since 2005 and to earn a shot at its first district title since 2004.

“We truly felt this was the team,” Brandon Cooper said. “Every game, we haven’t stepped on the court thinking we’re any less than anybody else, and I’m really proud of the guys for that. We haven’t always come out on top, but they have battled every single game.”

Lincoln County 55, Danville 51, OT

Defending regional champion Lincoln was on the ropes on its home court, but the Patriots pulled together in the closing minutes to force overtime and to keep Danville off the scoreboard in overtime.

Jackson Sims sank a 3-point shot with 26 seconds left for the only basket of the extra period, and Lincoln (21-9) successfully defended two 3-point attempts by Danville (21-11), which went 0 for 4 from the field and 0 for 2 at the foul line in the fifth period.

“We were very fortunate to make plays when we needed to and get stops when we needed to at the end,” Lincoln coach Jeff Jackson said. “We knew it was going to be that type of game coming in. … It was a battle, and I’m just really, really proud of our kids.”

A 3-pointer by Sims with 2:57 left in regulation gave the Patriots a 46-45 lead in a game that had seven ties and six lead changes, and a steal, layup and free throw by Colton Ralston made it 49-45 with 1:55 left.

Danville’s Owen Barnes answered with his own three-point play, and Barnes buried an off-balance 3-pointer with two seconds left to tie the game at 51-all after Lincoln missed four of six free throws in the final 1:26.

There were loose balls and rebounds that went Lincoln’s way late in the game, but not because the Admirals weren’t going after them, too.

“We definitely got after it, it just didn’t go our way,” Danville coach Ed McKinney said. “When you play like that, it’s hard to say you lost. But you’ve got to give them credit: They made the plays they had to make.”

Tramane Alcorn, who free throw with 1.8 seconds left sealed Lincoln’s second win in three games against Danville this season, led the Patriots with 15 points and eight rebounds. Ralston added 14 points, and Connor Davis had 11 points and a blocked shot on a 3-point attempt by Barnes in the closing seconds.

“All of our kids, all seven who played their tails off, and I’m just proud of our effort,” Jackson said.

Demauriah Brown had 21 points to lead Danville, which didn’t go to its bench all night. Barnes had 15 points and 13 rebounds, and Jalen Dunn added 13 points.

The Admirals had beaten Lincoln 12 days earlier on the same floor and played their best basketball of the season down the stretch to reach the 20-win mark for the first time since 2020, when they made the regional finals.

“Our guys want to win,” McKinney said. “A lot of guys play multiple sports and compete in a lot of different things, but those guys, they make Danville basketball competitive, and I think they give us some respect. I think people know when you play our kids you’re going to get a game.”

Lincoln will try to win its fifth consecutive district title Friday against Boyle. Each team beat the other on its home floor this season, with the Patriots winning the first game 54-48 and the Rebels taking the second 54-46.