For the fourth time in seven years, the Forcht Bank King of the Bluegrass championship trophy is heading out of Kentucky.
Anthony Cowan posted 18 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals and earned Bob White MVP honors to lead St. John’s of Washington, D.C., to a 59-56 victory over Taylor County in Tuesday’s final at Fairdale High School.
St. John’s joined Seattle Franklin (2008) and Nashville (Tenn.) Christ Presbyterian (2011, 2012) as recent champions from outside of the state.
“We had four games where we just found a way to win at the end,” Cadets coach Sean McAloon said. “As young as this group is, it is surprising. But it’s great because it’s going to be helpful once we get into our conference back home.”
Jeffrey Dowtin posted 12 points and six rebounds for St. John’s (7-2), which lost seven seniors from last season’s team. Five of them are playing for NCAA Division I schools, and another is at a Division II program.
Cowan, a 6-foot junior, entered the season as the team’s only player with varsity experience. He has scholarship offers from Maryland, Georgetown, Xavier, Florida State and several other schools and planned to take an unofficial visit to the University of Louisville after the game.
Brandon Berry posted 25 points and 11 rebounds to lead Taylor County (10-1), which is likely to climb the rankings after entering the season at No. 17 in the state. Standout junior Quentin Goodin added 16 points and seven rebounds.
“Obviously we wanted to win it, but if there’s one I want to win it’s in March,” Cardinals coach Richard Gatewood said. “This is going to help us get to that point in March.”
Neither team led by more than eight points in a back-and-forth contest that featured 12 lead changes and six ties.
Cowan’s two free throws gave St. John’s a 56-55 lead with 6.1 seconds left, but Taylor County’s David Sloan was fouled driving toward the basket with 3.2 seconds remaining.
Sloan hit the first free throw to tie the score at 56, missed the second and then was called for a foul while going for the rebound with 2.3 seconds left.
“You can’t get a dumb foul 94 feet from the basket,” Gatewood said. “It’s probably a 50-50 call. He has to be smarter. You have to learn from that. He’s 15 years old and just a sophomore. We’ll learn from this and get better.”
Dowtin hit both free throws for a 58-56 lead. Cowan then stole the inbounds pass and hit 1 of 2 free throws for the final margin.
The victory completed an impressive run for a St. John’s team that also beat No. 2 Ballard in overtime, No. 16 Bullitt East and Christ Presbyterian. The combined record of its four opponents was 29-3.
“We come in and work our butts off every day,” Cowan said, “so this is something we were ready for.
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and followed on Twitter @kyhighs.
St. John’s (7-2) – Sykes 5, Cowan 18, Wood 9, Saulny 2, Dowtin 12, Budrys 7, Hylton 6.
Taylor County (10-1) – Goodin 16, Sloan 8, Berry 25, Webster 4, Oliver 3.
3-point goals – Sykes, Cowan, Dowtin 2, Budrys, Hylton; Berry 3.
All-tournament team: Anthony Cowan, Jeffrey Dowtin (St. John’s); David Sloan, Quentin Goodin (Taylor County); Dujuanta Weaver (Doss); Tyger Campbell, Braxton Blackwell (Christ Presbyterian); Aric Holman, Justin Miller (Owensboro); Drew McDonald (Newport Central Catholic); Jalen Perry (Ballard); Tyler Sharpe (Bullitt East); James Bolden (Holmes); Trey Blevins (Wayne County).
Bob White MVP: Anthony Cowan (St. John’s).
Ralph Beard Spirit Award: Peyton Woods (Wayne County).