Sweet 16 preview | Cooper-Meade County

Sweet 16 preview | Cooper-Meade County

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Sweet 16 preview | Cooper-Meade County

Cooper Jaguars guard Sean McNeil drives against Eastern Eagles guard Kobey Jones in the 2nd Annual City of Middletown Holiday Classic at Eastern H.S. 31 December 2015

Cooper Jaguars guard Sean McNeil drives against Eastern Eagles guard Kobey Jones in the 2nd Annual City of Middletown Holiday Classic at Eastern H.S. 31 December 2015

GAME 8: COOPER VS. MEADE COUNTY, 8 P.M. THURSDAY

COOPER

* Coach: Tim Sullivan.

* Record: 28-4.

* Nickname: Jaguars.

* Location: Union.

* Region: Ninth.

* Enrollment: 1,341.

* Litkenhous Rating: 97.9 (No. 8 in state).

* Sweet 16 trips: First.

* Last trip to State: None.

* What to look for: The Jaguars, who started the season 4-3, have won 24 of their last 25 games, including a 51-38 triumph over No. 2 Covington Catholic in the Ninth Region final to earn the 9-year-old program’s first Sweet 16 trip. Junior guard Adam Kunkel, who tallied a game-high 24 points against CovCath, was the regional tourney MVP. Cooper has the best scoring defense (49.5 points per game) in the field. “We hang our hat on the defensive end,” said Sullivan, whose team primarily plays man-to-man but broke out a 1-3-1 zone in its regional win over CovCath.

* Key player: Senior guard Sean McNeil leads the team in scoring and rebounding and was the Northern Kentucky Division 1 Player of the Year despite missing several games in the middle of the season with a knee injury. The Bellarmine University signee shoots 56.4 percent from the field – including 46.8 percent from 3-point range – and 83.1 percent from the free-throw line.

* Coach-speak: “The key, first and foremost, is just enjoying each day and not getting that Rupp awe moment. They have to trust themselves and trust the process,” Sullivan said. “The big thing for us defensively is getting rebounds. We have to gang-rebound because we don’t have a ton of size.”

STARTERS

3-Dante Hendrix

6-2, Sr., 7.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg

5-Adam Kunkel

5-10, Jr., 16.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg

11-Brayden Runion

5-10, Jr., 10.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg

12-Chris McNeil

5-9, Jr., 6.7 ppg, 1.5 rpg

22-Sean McNeil

6-3, Sr., 16.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg

KEY RESERVES

10-Tyler Ollier

5-7, Jr., 3.2 ppg, 1.3 rpg

20-Blaine Walters

5-8, So., 6.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg

21-Noah Shidler

6-2, Jr., 2.1 ppg, 1.8 rpg

45-Daniel Wasser

6-3, Sr., 2.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg

ALSO: Boys Sweet 16 by the numbers

MORE: Here’s the bracket for the Boys Sweet 16

MORE: Who’s Sweet 16 favorite? Coaches make picks

MEADE COUNTY

* Coach: Jason Tripure.

* Record: 13-21.

* Nickname: Green Wave.

* Location: Brandenburg.

* Region: Third.

* Enrollment: 1,576.

* Litkenhous Rating: 70.3.

* Sweet 16 trips: Second (0-1).

* Last trip to State: 1984 (lost to Logan County 57-54 in first round).

* What to look for: The Green Wave has made an incredibly improbable run to Rupp. Meade County won eight of its first nine games, then lost 14 in a row and 20 of its next 22, including a 61-60 setback to Hancock County in the 11th District Tournament final, before winning the Third Region. The Green Wave’s losing streak coincided with an injury to star guard James Baker. Meade County, which plays a 2-3 matchup zone, gave up only 45 points per game in the Third Region Tournament. Meade County is the seventh team to make the Sweet 16 with a losing record. Three of the previous six lost in the first round, and the other three fell in the quarterfinals.

* Key player: You can’t get more key than Baker. The 6-7 senior guard missed 15 games after tearing a ligament in his left hand in late December, then having surgery to repair it. The Green Wave lost all but one of those games in his absence. He returned for the 11th District Tournament and put up 27 points and 10 rebounds in Meade County’s first game, a 63-56 win over Breckinridge County. He’s averaging 16.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game in the postseason.

* Coach-speak: “We got this far by working hard every day and a belief that this can be achieved,” Tripure said. “(The key is) just play good fundamental basketball and continue to work hard every day.”

STARTERS

3-James Baker

6-7, Sr., 16.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg

13-Aiden Matthews

6-3, Jr., 10.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg

21-Noah Schwartz

6-0, Jr., 10.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg

23-Dakota Clayton

5-10, Sr., 7.2 ppg, 2.8 rpg

42-Chesney Weick

6-3, So., 7.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg

KEY RESERVES

2-Case Medley

5-8, Sr., 2.0 ppg, 0.7 rpg

5-Dawson Gagel

5-7, Jr., 5.2 ppg, 1.4 rpg

15-Steven Benock

5-7, Jr., 3.9 ppg, 1.4 rpg

-Josh Cook

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