Bearcat Hoops defeat Westside before falling to Fayette County in Playoffs

Published 10:11 am Thursday, February 23, 2023

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The Bainbridge High School boys basketball team started the first round of GHSA Boys Basketball State Playoffs string on Wednesday night with a thrilling 46-43 victory over Westside High School before falling in the sweet sixteen to Fayette County in a nail-biting finish on Saturday night.

After coming off of a loss in the Region Championship game, the Bearcats took the floor focused and aggressive on Wednesday night against the Seminoles as their defense once again caused problems for the opposition. Both teams played aggressive throughout the game and sustained scoring runs to keep the game close. 

The first quarter was back and forth as the Seminoles and Bearcats both exchanged three’s on their opening possessions to get things started. As both teams began to find a rhythm, the first quarter came to a close with the score tied up at 13. 

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The second quarter started as a defensive battle with both teams holding each other scoreless in the first three minutes of the quarter, but Ked Bryant opened the scoring for the Bearcats as he knocked down a mid-range jump shot to send the Bearcats on a run. A fastbreak layup by KJ Cohran followed by an AJ Grant jump shot and a foul by the Seminoles sending KJ Cochran to the line, the Bearcats closed the first half on a 12-4 run as they went into the locker room with a 25-21 lead. 

To open the second half, the Bearcats continued their scoring run as KJ Cochran knocked down a jump shot from the elbow followed by a Dontavious Broadnax fastbreak layup as the Bearcats began to find their rhythm. 

Ked Bryant made one of the more impressive plays of the day as he had an emphatic block that turned into a Bearcats fastbreak in which Bryant finished with a tough layup in traffic that resulted in “oohs” and “aahs” from the Bearcat crowd. 

However, the Seminoles kept fighting back and weathering the runs from the Bearcat offense as the Bearcats hung on to a 39-32 lead with five minutes left in the game. After a Seminoles three and a layup, the Bearcats lead was cut to four with 1:38 left as AJ Grant was sent to the free throw line. 

Despite the pressure situation, Grant remained steady and knocked down four free throws in a row to push the Bearcats lead to 43-39. After a stop and another foul sent KJ Cochran to the line with 10 seconds left, Cochran nailed the two free throws to put the game out of reach as the Bearcats advanced to the sweet sixteen with a 46-43 victory. 

Head Coach Kelvin Cochran was pleased with his team performance and ability to bounce back after last week’s loss and is excited for the opportunity to take on the number one seed in Fayetteville. 

“It was a little hit and miss but it all came down to execution and I think we executed when we needed to,” said Cochran. “Westside did a great job. I knew they were going to play hard and aggressive and get us out of our sets sometimes but overall we made enough plays to win.”

Something Coach Cochran was especially pleased with was the Bearcats ability to knock down their free throws in the clutch. In the last minute and a half the Bearcats went to the free throw line four times and knocked down seven of their eight free throw attempts. 

“That was big,” said Cochran. “That’s part of basketball is being mentally tough. Down the stretch you have to be able to go to the line and make free throws and close out games and our guys did a great job of that tonight.”

On Saturday night, the Bearcats traveled to Fayetteville to take on number seed Fayette County. Fayette County came into Saturday’s matchup with a 24-5 record, going 13-1 in region play. The Tigers offense was one of the strengths of their team all season as three players averaged double figures throughout the year, with Reginald Kennedy leading the team with 24 points per game. 

Saturday night was a thriller for both teams, as they went back and forth keeping the game close all game. The Bearcats started the first quarter strong as they headed into the second quarter with the lead, but a run by the Tigers offense gave them 24 points in the second quarter as they went into halftime with the lead. The Bearcats would respond with a strong third quarter, outscoring the Tigers by ten. 

Despite a string of runs by the Bearcats, the Tigers ultimately took control late in the fourth as they narrowly defeated the Bearcats 61-59. Senior KJ Cochran put the Bearcats offense on his back as he led the team with 25 points followed by AJ Grant with 17 points. Although the Bearcats and coach Kelvin Cochran were heartbroken with the result, they were proud of the work they put in and tipped their hat to a great Fayette County team. 

“We tip our hats to Fayette County and wish nothing but the best for them the rest of the state playoffs,” said Cochran. “I want to thank God for blessing me with a great group of young men who I hope and pray not only learn basketball but how to be better men moving forward in their lives from the rest of our coaches and myself. It’s truly a pleasure to pour into them everyday. I love the fact that we embrace each other and tell each other we love each other often.”