With only one returning starter back, most players on Kenton Ridge’s boys basketball team assumed this season would be a rebuilding year that included some losses. What no player or coach assumed was that Kenton Ridge would be 0-21 entering the tournament.
With the Cougars facing a 12-win Indian Lake team in a sectional quarterfinal game on Saturday, few assumed a win was in store. But Kenton Ridge used an 8-2 run over the game’s final two minutes to secure a 64-56 victory, which puts the Cougars in a second-round game against the sectional’s top seed in Urbana on Tuesday night.
“We’re going to remember this forever,” Kenton Ridge junior guard Jameel Cosby said. “We tried hard to get a win, but we just didn’t execute well enough in a lot of close games. We kept the ball secure in this one, and we finished it. To get our first win in the tournament is so awesome.”
Kenton Ridge coach Kris Spriggs said the win was a testament to the players’ focus in practice leading up to the tournament game.
“They never stopped the grind this season, they kept playing and fighting through all our close losses, and here we are,” Spriggs said. “We talked about how it was a new season, and how we could learn from our mistakes and not do them again.”
The result shouldn’t be too shocking to those who paid close attention to Kenton Ridge this season. Though the Cougars were winless, three losses came in overtime, and there were plenty of other close ones, too — like a one-point loss to Tecumseh and an eight-point loss to Bellefontaine that saw Kenton Ridge lose a six-point lead in the fourth quarter.
Kenton Ridge almost beat the Lakers in regular season as well. The Cougars led Indian Lake by four points entering the fourth quarter on Jan. 24 but lost 63-59.
“In those other situations, we just always gave up an offensive rebound or couldn’t get a stop when we needed to,” Spriggs said.
Kyle Shoffner hit a 3-pointer with two minutes left in Saturday game’s for Indian Lake to cut Kenton Ridge’s lead to 56-54. But instead of folding down the stretch like in many other games, Kenton Ridge took control.
Michael Baker hit a layup to give the Cougars a four-point lead, then Indian Lake turned it over on the next possession. Cosby then added several free throws over the last 90 seconds to help Kenton Ridge hold on. Cosby led Kenton Ridge with 22 points, while Baker scored 20.
“We had been in so many close games that I wasn’t too nervous there with those free throws,” Cosby said. “We feel comfortable in close games, and we know what to do now.”
It will be tough for the Cougars to pull an encore upset over Urbana (13-9) on Tuesday. But Cosby said he’s confident Kenton Ridge will have a better showing than its two regular season games against the Hillclimbers, which were both 30-point losses.
“We’ve got to figure out their 1-3-1 zone, play good defense and play a complete game,” Cosby said.