Male overcame a flat start and used some timely shots by Alex Cook to knock off Shawnee 49-45 in a first-round Louisville Invitational Tournament game Monday night at Valley.
In setting up a rematch with Ballard for Wednesday night, the Bulldogs (9-7) were finally able to pull out a close game. Six of Male’s losses have been by six points or fewer. The only one that wasn’t close was the 82-65 defeat to the Bruins a month ago.
Although they shot only 27 percent in the first half, the Bulldogs took control near the end of the first quarter, and their 13-0 moved them ahead 18-12 midway through the second.
The score remained close until midway through the third quarter when Cook, a 6-foot-5 junior, knocked down the first of his three 3-point baskets in the period. His shots helped Male extend its lead to 42-30 by early in the fourth quarter.
“We needed some points on the board and knock some shots down to get our offense going and our defense going,” Cook said.
Cook, Male’s second leading scorer, was scoreless in the first half, following up on a Bulldogs warmup he called “terrible,” leading to the flat start.
Shawnee coach Miquel Coleman said the game plan was to keep the Cook and leading scorer Will Parker (who finished with 12 points) from getting open. It worked on Cook, Coleman said, for two quarters. The three times he got open, he connected.
“Those three threes in that third quarter really, really hurt,” Coleman said. “So, what was going through my mind? Pain. Pain.”
Despite shooting less than 30 percent and committing 22 turnovers, Shawnee – making its first LIT appearance since 1990 – came back with a strong fourth quarter. A 9-2 run by the Golden Eagles (7-8) made it a three-point game with 90 seconds left.
Shawnee had two chances to either tie or take a lead but came only as close as two points. Down 45-43 with 37 seconds left, Deonte Johnson drove down the lane for Shawnee, but his runner was a tad too hard. Male then made 4 of 6 free throws in the final 30.2 seconds to put the game away.
Male coach Larry Miller still believes his team can play better than it has so far this season, but hopes pulling out a close one can build some confidence in the Bulldogs.
In preparing for the Bruins, the second-ranked team in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings, Miller will let his players rest their legs.
“We don’t really have any time to prepare,” he said. “Ballard puts so much pressure on us.”
Shawnee will get ready for All A Tournament action next week. Coleman hopes to use Monday’s loss as a building block for the All A and district and regional action.
“I’m really proud of the guys,” he said. “I’m happy for them and the school that we got to this place.”
Robert Bendingfield and Jaylen Wesley led Shawnee with 8 points each.
Shawnee (7-8) – White 2, D. Johnson 3, Bendingfield 8, Wesley 8, Jewell 6, King 5, Pitney 7, Griffith 6.
Male (9-7) – Bowman 3, Coleman 3, Watts 4, Parker 12,1, Cook 10, J. Johnson 6, 10.
3-point goals – D. Johnson, King, Cook 3.