Bellarmine signee launched game-winning half-court shot just before buzzer
Alex Cook barely had time to react.
The final seconds of the fourth quarter wound down with Cook’s Male boys basketball team racing down for one last shot in a tied game with St. Xavier. In setting up that shot, the ball was deflected toward midcourt. But before the buzzer sounded, Cook scrambled from the top of the key to the ball and heaved a prayer that somehow was answered in the host Bulldogs’ stunning 65-62 victory.
In an instant, one of the top candidates for Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball added a signature moment to his campaign.
“That’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime ending,” said Willie Feldhaus, Cook’s coach, about the Miracle at Male.
Cook finished with 19 points, and Male, the No. 9 team in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings, needed those final three after William Olsen’s 3-pointer tied the game at 62 with :11 left for St. X.
The Bulldogs (20-3) chose not to call a timeout. Punchie Watts dribbled all the way into the lane before he kicked it out to Deondrai Williams on the wing. But before Williams could get a handle on it, the Tigers’ Connor Knight poked it away.
That set the stage for Cook.
“I didn’t think I was going to get it off,” the Bellarmine signee said.
Both teams played evenly throughout the game as neither led by more than nine points. Male led 15-6 midway through the first quarter by taking advantage of some early turnovers by the Tigers (15-8). But the Tigers’ defense clamped down in the second quarter, holding the Bulldogs to just 2 of 9 shooting in that period and taking a 32-28 lead into halftime.
Cook also finished the first half taking just three shots for only six points. St. X coach Kevin Klein said his team worked to make sure they challenged any shot the 6-foot-6 forward took.
GALLERY: Male-St. Xavier
“Ultimately, you can’t hide talent,” Klein said. “Big-time players are going to make big-time plays.”
The Tigers, led by Connor McKim’s 28 points, would lead by as many as seven points in the third quarter before Male made its comeback. After McKim went the full length of the court unscathed for a layup to make it 43-36 St. X, Feldhaus called a timeout to give his team a boost with 4:19 left in the third period.
“We were just having trouble getting good shots,” Feldhaus said. “We were just settling a lot, I think, for jump shots. … My message was we were going to have to dig in. These next few minutes were very important. We’ve got to find a way to get some defensive stops.”
The Bulldogs answered their coach’s call by using a 9-1 run out of the timeout and taking a 45-44 lead on Cook’s 17-footer with 1:27 left in the third. Later, they used a 9-0 run midway in the fourth quarter to take a 56-52 lead with 4:29 left.
Corey Bowman finished with 16 points for Male, and Olsen added 13 for the Tigers, who made just 9 of 17 free throws and committed 15 turnovers to the Bulldogs’ four.
St. Xavier (15-8): McKim 28, Basham 7, Olsen 13, Kielser 11, Brian 3.
Male (20-3): Bowman 16, Watts 7, Williams 4, Cook 19, Brownley 10, Allman 5, McCauley 4.
3-point goals: McKim 4, Olsen 3, Bowman, Watts, Cook, Allman.