A quick look at the boys’ 10th Region Tournament bracket and a potential heavyweight bout in the semifinals between George Rogers Clark and Campbell County sticks out.
But the Cardinals, who were the preseason favorite in the region, aren’t feeling the pressure and will take the tournament like they did the regular season – one game at a time.
“I think, if anything, you use it as somewhat of a motivation. Really, you just try to play it game by game. We’ve tried to do that all year. Each week we try to set it up so, hey, if we’re playing two games we try to go 2-0. If we play three, we try to go 3-0. That’s kind of a tournament preparation and something we use with our kids. It’s a step by step process,” said George Rogers Clark coach Josh Cook. “There’s really no pressure if you truly get your team prepared and we’ve kind of bought into that. If you put the work in, the game will take care of itself. In the end you want to give it your best shot and see what happens and hopefully you have enough faith that you’ve done the right things.”
George Rogers Clark will have to beat Bracken County for the second time this season if they want a shot at their first semifinal game since the 2012 season, when they went on to win the 10th Region. The Camels will have to beat Harrison County to set up a rematch of a Dec. 9 game that Campbell County won, 78-70. Campbell County also ended the Cardinals’ season last year in the quarterfinals.
“If it happens, it happens. If it happens, it’ll be something that we’ll have some time to get prepared for if we’re lucky and fortunate enough to get past the first round. It’ll be a heck of a basketball game if we’re blessed enough to get there,” said Cook. “On the other side – the other team on our side is Harrison. Harrison can play really good, solid basketball. They can control the game and have got some weapons. Our side of the bracket is definitely going to be some good basketball games.”
The Cardinals lost only four games all season – to Madison Central, Campbell County, Male and Henry Clay. Several teams were able to hang close, including 10th Region Tournament participants Scott, Pendleton County and Paris. They beat the Eagles by two on Dec. 2, the Wildcats by four on Dec. 8 and the Greyhounds three times by an average of under six points, including a 59-56 overtime win in the 40th District final.
“I think it’s probably just dictating tempo and things sometimes. The game, it’s different sometimes. There’s a rhythm to each basketball game. Sometimes you’ve got to find that rhythm and that means you want to be prepared,” said Cook. “In tournament play, a lot of times that score is going to drop in the game and the game is going to be close. I’m very thankful to be in those situations before.”
Controlling the tempo will be important against Bracken County and coach Jason Hinson, who’s been known to try to slow games down in an effort to keep them close. In 2009 when Hinson coached St. Patrick, the Saints hung in a 10th Region quarterfinal game before eventually falling, 58-47.
“It’s tournament play and everybody is going to bring their best basketball. With the amount of time we have, all teams are going to have a chance to prepare. Our focus will really be us trying to play our best basketball and get ready for them. They’re playing pretty well. Coach Hinson – he’s been there before and he does a good job of getting his teams ready,” said Cook. “Our thought process will be making sure that we’re ready. We’ll scout them as much as we possibly can and try to make sure our guys are ready and prepared for any situation.”
George Rogers Clark had 12 players score in the previous meeting with Bracken County, which the Cardinals won, 84-33. Senior Ryan Cooper led the way with 17 points, while juniors Brennan Canada had 16 and Jordan Graham had 15. Those three, along with Mr. Basketball candidate Will Philpot, all average double digit scoring.
“I think we need our guys to be really vocal and I think that’s going to be a collective effort from everybody. As we went through the district we learned that being vocal and communicating is so important this time of year,” said Cook. “We really want to see our veterans really step up and show that leadership and communicate to each other when we really need it.”
The game is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Wednesday. A win would put the Cardinals in Monday’s 6 p.m. semifinal for a chance to play in the championship game, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
NO.; NAME; HEIGHT; POS.; GRADE
4; KJ Rucker; 5-10; PG; So.
5; Isaiah Noland; 6-1; G; Jr.
10; DeTerious Knowles; 5-9; SG; Jr.
11; Chase Taylor; 6-2; G; Sr.
12; Hunter Helderman; 6-1; F/G; So.
13; Brennan Canada; 6-7; F; Jr.
15; Jared Wellman; 6-4; F/G; Fr.
20; Jehdon Jenkins; 6-3; F; Jr.
21; Ryan Cooper; 6-3.5; F/G; Sr.
22; Jordan Graham; 6-3.5; PG; Jr.
23; Ezekiel Dijiba; 6-3; F; Jr.
25; Ben Jackson; 6-7; C; Jr.
30; Nitavius Thomas; 6-2; F; Jr.
31; JJ Johnson; 6-2; F; Sr.
35; Will Philpot; 6-4; F; Sr.
Head Coach: Josh Cook
Assistants: Bryce Gomes, Jonathan Moore, Jason Neely
Scorebook: Bob Greene
Managers/Film: Elijah Penichett, Joshua Hampton
Athletic Director: Jamie Keene
Athletic Trainer: Brandon White
DATE; OPPONENT; SITE; RESULT
Nov. 28; Nicholas County; home; (W) 82-32
Dec. 2; Scott; at North Laurel; (W) 62-60
Dec. 5; Madison Central; away; (L) 67-46
Dec. 8; Pendleton County; away; (W) 59-55
Dec. 9; Campbell County; home; (L) 78-70
Dec. 12; Woodford County; away; (W) 61-52
Dec. 15; Paris; home; (W) 71-64
Dec. 18; Ashland Blazer; away; (W) 56-50
Dec. 22; Waggener; at Rowan County; (W) 80-74
Kentucky Bank Challenge
Dec. 23; Perry County Central; at Rowan County; (W) 63-51
Kentucky Bank Challenge
Dec. 27; North Oldham; at Eastern; (W) 60-58
City of Middletown Holiday Classic
Dec. 28; Eastern; away; (W) 61-44
City of Middletown Holiday Classic
Dec. 29; Male; at Eastern; (L) 67-53
City of Middletown Holiday Classic (championship)
Jan. 3; Paris; away; (W) 59-52
Jan. 5; Bourbon County; home; (W) 95-60
Jan. 6; Garrard County; home; (W) 83-62
Jan. 9; Harrison County; home; (W) 78-29
Jan. 18; Rowan County; home; (W) 78-42
Jan. 20; Pulaski County; home; (W) 74-71
Tim Short Automotive Classic
Jan. 23; Tates Creek; away; (W) 74-38
Jan. 26; Montgomery County; home; (W) 67-31
Jan. 27; Frankfort; home; (W) 67-57
MLK Jr. Classic
Jan. 29; Bourbon County; away; (W) 66-62
Jan. 30; South Laurel; home; (W) 55-51
Feb. 2; Mason County; home; (W) 78-45
Feb. 5; Madison Southern; home; (W) 78-63
Feb. 8; Montgomery County; away; (W) 70-50
Feb. 10; Bracken County; home; (W) 84-33
Feb. 13; Frederick Douglass; away; (W) 73-60
Feb. 15; Henry Clay; away; (L) 69-62
Feb. 20; Bourbon County; at Montgomery County; (W) 79-49
40th District Semifinals
Feb. 22; Paris; at Montgomery County; (W) 59-56 (overtime)
40th District Championship
Feb. 28; Bracken County; at Mason County; 6 p.m.
10th Region Quarterfinals
POINTS FOR: 2,203
POINTS ALLOWED: 1,732
POINTS PER GAME: 68.8
POINTS ALLOWED PER GAME: 54.1
FIELD GOAL %: 48.6
3-POINT %: 35.8
FREE THROW %: 69.5
REBOUNDS PER GAME: 35.6