Dale Mabrey said he’s had his fun in the Sweet 16, and now he wants his Pleasure Ridge Park players to experience the pinnacle of high school basketball in Kentucky.
They’ll get their shot later this week.
PRP punched its ticket to Rupp Arena with a 53-44 victory over rival Butler at Valley on Saturday night in an intense final of the Class Act Federal Credit Union Sixth Region Tournament.
The Panthers (25-7), No. 5 in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings, will be in the state tournament for the first time since 2006 and the 13th time overall, including 12 under Mabrey, the school’s legendary coach.
“After (Thursday’s semifinal), I told the kids, I’ve been (to the Sweet 16) more than the law allows. I wanted them to go,” Mabrey said. “They’ve suffered the last two years in regional finals (with losses to Bullitt East). Last year they got beat on a last-second shot. … This is all for them. I can’t wait to sit back and watch them tonight. It’s something they wanted to bad.”
On his 18th birthday, Taywan Taylor led PRP with 19 points, including 17 after halftime, six rebounds and four steals. He made crucial plays on offense and defense down the stretch as the Panthers fought off a charge from Demetrius Reynolds and Butler.
“It’s the only present I wanted,” said Taylor, who thrust the ball in the rafters — where it got stuck and stayed the rest of the night — after the final horn. “I said my birthday party is at 7 o’clock (for tipoff), and whatever happens at 7 o’clock is my present. I’m glad I was able to get the win.”
Taylor, a wide receiver who is signed to play football for Western Kentucky, also led PRP to the Class 6-A state runner-up finish in football.
“My senior year has been a heck of a year, and it’s something that I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” he said.
PRP went ahead 44-34 with 3:56 to go on Taylor’s free throw, but McReynolds, who had a team-high 12 points, kept the No. 16 Bears (24-8) alive.
The second of his three 3-pointers in the quarter cut the lead to 45-40 with three minutes to play. He made another less than a minute later to trim PRP’s lead to 45-43.
Butler got possession again on a steal, but William Johnson was called for traveling as he drove to the goal on the ensuing break.
With PRP still up 45-43, Taylor and Richard Clemons pressured McReynolds at midcourt and forced a steal. Clemons went in for a layup that was granted to him on a goal-tend, and PRP got some breathing room.
Taylor scored next to make it 49-43, and moments later he stole Butler’s attempt to save the ball from out of bounds, kicking it ahead to Lamontray Harris for an easy dunk and a 51-44 lead with 20 seconds left.
Taylor carried the load with 10 points for PRP in the third quarter, and his clutch play continued in the fourth.
Taylor was just 5 of 13 from the floor but made 9 of 13 free throws.
Pleasure Ridge Park (25-7) – Taylor 19, McDaniels 10, Clemons 7, Harris 5, Lavender 4, Sawyer 3, Hunter 3, Byrd 2.
Butler (24-8) – McReynolds 12, Johnson 9, Harbin 8, Bell 6, Ferrell 4, Whetstone 4, Malone 1.
3-point goals – McReynolds 3, Harbin.
Dr. Rudy J. Ellis Sports Medicine All-Tournament Team:
Joe Jackson, Fern Creek; Jamon Sanford, Moore; Deon Yelder, Southern, Montrell Little, Doss; Darren Lowry, Fairdale; Derek Willis, Bullitt East; Demetrius McReynolds, Butler; Monty Harbin, Butler; Taywan Taylor, Pleasure Ridge Park; Lamontray Harris, PRP; Richard Clemons, PRP.