LEXINGTON, Ky. – Chris Gaither said one of the great parts of making the state tournament is the stories he gets to tell, and the Collins High School boys basketball coach will have plenty more after Thursday night.
Gaither’s star senior posted a double-double and took a key charge in the final seconds of regulation, his promising freshman made several key baskets and his school earned its first-ever victory in the Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Sweet 16 by defeating Elliott County 65-57 in overtime at Rupp Arena.
“It’s huge for your program because it creates the stories that are going to live throughout Collins history,” Gaither said. “It’s all about these guys. You get to tell about Dominique Turner, Dayvion (McKnight), Charlie (Cochran), Jacob Feltner, Nick Fort.”
Cochran, a senior, finished with 23 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks as Collins (24-12) – in its second Sweet 16 trip since opening in 2010 – advanced to face Cooper in Friday’s 6:30 p.m. quarterfinal.
Fort, a junior, tallied 17 points and seven rebounds for the Titans. McKnight, a freshman, added 12 points, eight assists and seven rebounds.
The Titans’ victory completed a first-round sweep Thursday for the Louisville area’s Sixth (Fern Creek), Seventh (Ballard) and Eighth (Collins) region champions. The last time that happened was in 2006, when Pleasure Ridge Park, Jeffersontown and Shelby County all won their openers.
Elliott County (26-4) got 21 points from Chase Porter and 19 points and eight rebounds from Korbin Spencer. The Lions lost in the first round of the Sweet 16 for the third straight year, having fallen to Bowling Green in 2015 and 2016.
With no starter taller than 6 feet 1, Elliott County lost the rebounding battle 43-26 as the 6-5 Fort, 6-5 Turner and 6-4 Cochran dominated.
“It’s tough,” coach Greg Adkins said. “Any time you get outrebounded by 17 and still have a chance to win … we fought the best we could in that situation.”
Neither team led by more than eight points in a game that featured six ties and six lead changes.
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The Lions took their biggest lead, 45-40, on Spencer’s 3-point play with 4:42 left in regulation. But McKnight scored eight points during a 10-4 run that gave Collins a 50-49 lead with 1:09 left.
Gaither said he wasn’t surprised to see the freshman make such important plays down the stretch.
“The kid doesn’t change facial expressions throughout games,” Gaither said. “He doesn’t go up and down through the emotions of the game, and he just stays solid. We trust he’s going to make plays.”
Porter’s steal and layup gave Elliott County a 52-50 lead with 16 seconds left, and Turner sank two free throws to tie it with nine seconds left.
After the second free throw, Spencer drove the court and was called for a charging foul with 3.7 seconds left. Cochran took the charge.
“When he was coming down the court I was just thinking, ‘Don’t foul,’” Cochran said. “We work on taking charges in practice, so I just took a charge. Hopefully they called it.”
Collins had a shot to win in regulation, but Turner missed at the buzzer. But the Titans dominated the overtime, scoring the first seven points to take a 59-52 lead. Cochran had a 3-point play, McKnight sank two free throws and Turner made a layup for the seven-point edge with 1:40 left.
Gage Evans’ 3-point play pulled the Lions within 59-55 with 1:31 left, but they never got closer.
“Fortunately for us we continued to make plays,” Gaither said. “We had guys step up on the offensive and defensive ends, and we were fortunate to come out with the win.”
Cooper 54, Meade County 39: Adam Kunkel had 16 points, eight rebounds and four steals to lead the Jaguars (29-4) – No. 8 in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings – over the Green Wave (13-22).
Sean McNeil, a Bellarmine University signee, added nine points, seven rebounds and four assists as Cooper won in its Sweet 16 debut and extended its winning streak to 15.
As usual, Cooper did it with defense, converting 19 Meade County turnovers into 21 points. The Jaguars allow just 49.5 points per game.
“We try to challenge every single pass and every single shot,” Jaguars coach Tim Sullivan said. “We get steals off the ball because we’re in position and in the gaps. When loose balls are there they have to be ours. It helps that we’re a quick and athletic team.”
Chesney Weick had 15 points and seven rebounds to lead Meade County, which had the most losses of any team ever to qualify for the Sweet 16.
“If we handle the ball better we give ourselves a chance to win it,” Green Wave coach Jason Tripure said. “You cant turn the ball over 19 times against a team that good.”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
COLLINS 65, ELLIOTT COUNTY 57, OT
COLLINS (24-12) – Jacob Feltner 1p; Nick Fort 17p, 7r; Dayvion McKnight 12p, 8a, 7r; Charles Cochran 23p, 13r, 4b; Dominique Turner 10p, 9r, 4a, 3b; Marcellus Vail 2p.
ELLIOTT COUNTY (26-4) – Korbin Spencer 19p, 8r; Chase Porter 21p; Gage Evans 13p, 7r; Tanner Dickerson 3p; Austin Porter 1p.
COOPER 54, MEADE COUNTY 39
MEADE COUNTY (13-22) – James Baker 7p, 8r, 6b; Aiden Matthews 5p, 6r; Noah Schwartz 2p; Chesney Weick 15p, 7r; Case Medley 8p; Dawson Gagel 2p.
COOPER (29-4) – Dante Hendrix 4p; Adam Kunkel 16p, 8r, 4s; Brayden Runion 6p; Chris McNeil 5p; Sean McNeil 9p, 7r, 4a; Tyler Ollier 8p; Blaine Walters 2p; Noah Shidler 2p; Caleb Hampton 2p.