They say beating a team three times is tough and the Red Devils proved that to be true on Friday night, using a balanced effort on both ends of the floor to defeat Owensboro Catholic 69-55 and bring home another 9th District Championship to the program.
The Aces drew first blood with contested corner three from senior Parker Gray to open up play, but both teams began trading buckets with Owensboro taking a narrow 11-8 lead by the four-minute mark. However, late in the first a nice spin into a mid-range jumper by sophomore Luke Beickman and some crafty dribble combos from senior Brian Griffith led to a step-back three for a quick 5-0 run, as Owensboro Catholic cut it to a 16-15 Red Devils lead heading into the second quarter.
The run carried well into the second, getting up to 12-0 to give the Aces a 22-16 lead with 5:40 to go in the quarter. But freshman Jonathan Moss checked back into the game moments later, knocking down a floater to end the run.
He proceeded to drain a three on the following possession, hitting another layup after sophomore Dayshawn Sanders had done the same to help propel them to an 11-0 run and a 27-22 lead with two minutes to go in the first half. Sanders proceeded to finish with eight of his 13 points in the second quarter—hitting two of his three from deep on the night after being 5-29 coming into the game—while also being a strong defender on Griffith and others off the bench throughout the contest.
“Dayshawn has been here all year long,” Owensboro Head Coach Rod Drake said. “He’s been pecking away and pecking away. The last couple weeks he’s kind of put it together. He’s been a big plus for us.”
He helped limit Owensboro Catholic to one more basket before heading into the locker room, as the Aces were now looking at a 33-26 halftime deficit. Owensboro kept rolling out of halftime though, as senior Ji Webb had five straight of a 7-0 run to give them a 40-26 lead with 5:25 to go in the third.
Webb played a key role in the second half effort, controlling the glass for the Red Devils and being a defensive force while scoring seven of his nine points in the third to help them take a 48-38 lead.
“He controlled the glass and he altered a lot of shots in there tonight too,” Drake said. “That makes a difference. We didn’t give Griffith a lot of clean looks tonight.”
Owensboro stayed strong in the fourth with its best offensive quarter of the night with 21 points, having an answer for every Aces bucket. As the Red Devils outscored Owensboro Catholic for the fourth straight quarter, they walked away with the 69-55 win for a fifth straight 9th District Championship.
Drake was thrilled after the win on Friday, saying that it’s been exciting to watch his team start to gel in practice and then see it translating it into the game here in the postseason.
“Our last couple weeks of the season we were still trying to find out where we were,” Drake said. “Ji gets hurt, we’re playing different people. Last couple of weeks we put some practice time together. We’re finally putting it together. This time of year depending on where you’ve been, we’re playing to win and some of these teams are playing not to lose. So that’s where I think we have an advantage over a lot of these teams. We played a good schedule. We’ve seen it all on the court, so our kids don’t get rattled.”
Their depth played a huge role in the win, as seven different players scored in the game with plenty of others making impacts in all facets of the game to get the win.
“You gotta give credit to our bench,” Drake said. “I thought Dayshawn came off the bench tonight and gave us a spark and the other guys helped. It was a total team effort. I like where we’re at right now.”
Of those seven, Carbon led all scorers with 28 points while Sanders was the only other player in double figures with 13 points. Griffith and junior Tutt Carrico were the only players in double figures for the Aces with 24 and 12 points respectively, leading an offense that Head Coach Tim Riley felt was too stagnant.
“I thought we played hard as a group, but you gotta move the basketball,” Riley said. “We didn’t move the ball enough. We didn’t get enough assists in the game… What that tells you is they got up in us and made us go make plays on our own without moving the basketball at all.”
Along with their struggles Riley said that it was a tough environment to play in at Owensboro High School and that a hungry Owensboro team came ready to win. Despite the loss, the Aces are still in the 3rd Region Tournament and Riley said his team just needs to get a nice game to get them back into rhythm and go far in the postseason after some recent struggles.
“I mean we haven’t been playing bad basketball,” Riley said. “We played bad Tuesday night and we didn’t play so great tonight, but we just gotta get that one game. Get in your comfort zone again and play well. But if you don’t, then it’s just one and out nowadays.”
Sitting at 26-5 and 16-10 respectively, Owensboro Catholic and the Red Devils will see on Edmonson County on Wednesday at 7:45 p.m. and Ohio County at 7:45 p.m. on Thursday, March 2, respectively to open up the 3rd Region Tournament.