Matt Gardner, the assistant basketball coach at Barren County High School, was in Warren Cunningham’s ear practically all night Tuesday when the Trojans visited Allen County-Scottsville for a big District 15 contest.
Assistant coaches make suggestions to their head coaches all the time and Gardner wanted Cunningham to switch his team’s defense. Instead of a zone or a man-to-man, Gardner wanted the Trojans to pick up the tempo on that end of the floor and create havoc for the Patriots.
Cunningham listened to Gardner and the end result was a thrilling 61-59 Barren County victory.
“We switched things up a little bit. Coach Gardner was chirping my ear after the game got started about possibly trapping a little bit and speeding up the tempo,” Cunningham said. “I was a little leery about it because they (Patriots) have two or three really good shooters on the floor at any time and they have a guy inside that can really pound on you. I was leery, but it was the turning point in the game. It really turned the tide.
“I thought the tempo going up and down got them out of their rhythm on offense a time or two and it gave us some good looks on the other end.”
The Trojans trailed 32-26 at the intermission and couldn’t really make any headway against ACS in the third period. Dyllan Harper scored at the 6:30 mark to make it 36-28 for the Patriots and when Preston Clarke hit a layup with 3:15 to go in the period, the Patriots led 46-36.
But Charley McCoy hit a 3-pointer and Wade Coomer followed with a jumper for the Trojans. Ben Leftwich then hit the first of two free throws and the Trojans were suddenly within four at 46-42. The Patriots led 48-44 at the end of the third period.
Barrett Billingsley sank two free throws with 6:07 to go in the game to tie the score at 49-49 for the Trojans. Jared Walden converted a 3-point play for ACS at the 5:00 mark to make it 52-52, but Leftwich scored on a layup to give Barren County the lead for good at 54-52.
The Patriots went cold from the field in the final eight minutes, shooting only 33 percent from the floor in the second half. However, the Trojans never could take advantage of that as they missed five free throws in the final 5:00 that would have iced the game.
“I am really proud of our guys for hanging in there tonight,” Cunningham said. “Early on, there was some foul trouble and we missed some shots we normally make. Things seemed to be going their (Allen County) way. But our guys hung in there, hung in there and we found a way to win at the end.”
Harper led ACS with 20 points and eight rebounds. Jake Sikes had 18 points and Walden tallied 16 points and dished out seven assists.
The Trojans are back in action on Friday when they host preseason District 15 favorite Monroe County. Tipoff is 7:30 p.m.
“I expect the Monroe County game will be a lot like tonight, a battle to the end,” said Cunningham. “They’ve got multiple guys that can score and they create a lot of matchup problems for us.”