Cooper boys’ basketball coach Tim Sullivan wants people to understand that while he despises losing, he is not as concerned about the team’s record as much as playing tough competition and finding ways to improve every game and practice.
Cooper (2-2) has consistently displayed balanced scoring for years, typically slowing the pace down and working the ball around for good shots. The visiting Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds (4-1) have shown they are ready to return to those days in their glorious past so far this year, especially when current assistant Drew McDonald played. The Jaguars just did it better in a 77-66, 9th Region home win.
The Jaguars came into the season knowing they could do some great things if they can force opponents to have to defend senior 6-foot-9-inch center Caleb Brooks one-on-one, especially in the paint. Brooks came into the game averaging 13 points per game and scored 16 in the win. But four other Jaguars scored nine or more points in the win.
“We’re trying to figure out who we are,” Sullivan said. “We have a lot of length and size. That doesn’t just mean you’re going to line up and throw the ball inside to score on people. You can’t schedule cupcakes and win. There are no cupcakes in our region. In our district, it’s a dogfight every day.”
Sophomore guard Yamil Rondon led Cooper hitting three 3-pointers on his way to 17 points as eight different players scored. Cooper senior Nnamdi Ajaezu dazzled the home crowd scoring all 10 of his points in the second half, including eight in the third quarter.
“We like to play as a team and keep lifting each other up,” Ajaezu said. “We’re always trying to get players an open look. We’re just trying to swing the ball all around the court and get the best shot.”
Overall, Cooper made 10 three-pointers and 79 percent from the free throw line. Sophomore guard Andy Johnson and senior forward/guard Trevor Ollier added nine points each.
Newport Central Catholic was led by senior guard Coby Kramer with 26 points and sophomore Ian Mann scored 14. NewCath played without their second-leading scorer in junior Jase Iles.
“It’s real NewCath toughness,” said Jake Luhn, NewCath head coach. “We have one goal this season. It’s just to fight for our ceiling. We’re going to get the I out of this program. We’re going to be relentless. We’re hitting shots where they should come from. We played a Cooper team that could very well win the region. They’re incredibly well-coached. But I was proud of our guys effort. They’re feeling the things you have to do to win games like this, not just compete, which is where we were last year.”
Cooper jumped out to a 12-2 lead to start the game. After the Jaguars led 21-14 after one quarter, the Thoroughbreds came back to take a 26-25 lead when Mann hit a three-point play. But Cooper responded with a 10-0 run to go up for good at 35-25 and finished the first half up 40-34.
NewCath cut the margin to 48-46 with 4:20 left in the third quarter when Mann made a triple. But Ajaezu scored two straight buckets to start an 8-0 Cooper run and the Thoroughbreds did not come any closer the rest of the game.
“Every day in practice, we come in and it’s a lot of defense,” said Gavin Lutz, Cooper senior guard/forward. “It’s a lot of guarding playing against certain people, certain looks. We sit down an guard in practice and it transfers right over to the game. A lot of things get covered up because of our on-ball pressure.”
Both teams play again the the John Turner Classic at Newport on Saturday. Cooper takes on Linton-Stockton (Indiana) at 3 p.m., and NewCath plays Campbell County at 4:30 p.m.
HOLY CROSS 82, JOHN HARDIN 47
The Indians (3-0) advanced in the Billy Hicks Classic in Georgetown on Wednesday with a convincing win over reigning 5th Region champion John Hardin (0-5).
Jacob Meyer led three Holy Cross players in double figures with 29 points as they shot 50 percent from the field. Jacob Smith added 17, Javier Ward with 16 while Sam Gibson had seven points and 21 rebounds. Carson Reinersman also added double-digit rebounds with 11, Luke Arlinghaus tossing in seven points.
The Indians will play Great Crossing on Friday in the semifinals at 7:30 p.m.
Other Boys Basketball Scores
Beechwood 79, Bishop Brossart 62
Lloyd Memorial 62, Villa Madonna 28
Williamstown 81, Dayton 54
Girls Basketball Scores
George Rogers Clark 65, Ryle 53
Ludlow 52, Holmes 36
Pendleton County 66, Dayton 36