With a two possession lead and less than a minute to play, Jalen Cherry showed up in the corner, took a pass and fired up a 3-point attempt.
The ball only touched the net, cementing a 58-51 win for the Cooper Cougars over Lubbock Cooper in a rowdy Friday night at Cougar Gym.
The shot, which sent the crowd into a frenzy and sent the Cougars tied for the district lead 4-5A, was Cooper coach Bryan Conover, who didn’t shy away from seeing one of his four seniors take.
“If you shoot as well as he does, for me it’s a 60-40 shot,” Conover said. “He has a 60% chance of getting in unguarded, and we’ll take him.”
The crowd, which had been loud and rowdy all night, was a major factor in the win.
“It was definitely one of the biggest crowds I’ve played (in front of) against,” Cherry said. “One of the other big (crowds) was in sophomore against (Abilene) High, but it topped him because it was Senior Night and had so much energy.”
Conover was quick to credit fans.
“The crowd was great and we try to do promotions and stuff to get the students involved,” he said. “It’s always great to see the support. In basketball, I think it helps when you have a bit of success because more people come and watch. The crowds were great and got our kids started.
Coupled with Wylie’s win over Lubbock Monterey, the Cougars moved to a three-way tie for the district lead with the Plainsmen and Bulldogs. Abilene Cooper is in Monterey on Tuesday, and with a win there, the Coogs will clinch at least a share of the district title, as well as the league playoff seed.
Getting a top-two seed for the playoffs is important because it means the Cougars would avoid a two-district matchup with Amarillo High or Amarillo Palo Duro.
Cooper took an 11-2 lead after the first quarter on Friday night – a start that was sparked by the defense. Senior point guard Drew Gonzalez led the defensive effort, but it was a backboard buzzer block by Cherry that got the crowd moving.
“(Drew) is a little pest,” Cherry said. “The reason why our defense is so (good) is because we are so prepared. Our coaches wake up early and stay up late at night to go over scouting and get us ready for the game to give us our best chance of winning.
Conover was quick to praise his point guard’s play, despite Gonzalez finding himself in trouble early on.
“He did a great job,” Conover said. “Drew is our best defender and cares about people. He kind of had a few early fouls, which sometimes he gets a little too aggressive, but he plays hard and it’s hard to bring him back.
Even with the fast start, the Cougars faced a comeback from the Pirates, who opened the second quarter on a 15-3 run to take a 17-14 lead. In a demonstration of what was to come the rest of the night, Abilene Cooper was able to fight back and finished the first half on a 7-3 run to take a 21-20 lead into the locker room.
Lubbock Cooper used a solid run in the final two minutes of the third quarter to cut the Cougars’ lead from 36-24 to 36-30, but Cherry’s 3-pointer at the buzzer stole the hosts’ momentum.
“It was a huge blow,” Conover said. “They had a six-point game and he made it, then we got the ball out in the (fourth quarter). It gave us a little momentum. »
The Pirates caught fire in the fourth quarter, cutting Abilene Cooper’s lead to 41-37 after just two minutes, before the Cougars responded with five of the next seven points to extend the lead.
Lubbock Cooper had a chance to tie the game with 2:53 remaining, but Connor Gant missed the front of a 1-and-1 from the free throw line and the Cougars were able to close the game from there .
Cherry led Cooper with 16 points, while Kam Gray had 15 and Gonzalez added 11.
“It was a good start, then we had a little foul issue,” Conover said. “We took them down and thought we could bury them, but they fought back and stayed in the game. They made it tough, but we were lucky to get a few shots in the streak to win.
DISTRICT BOYS 4-5A PRELIMINARY IMAGE
- Tuesday: Abilene Cooper (6-3) at Lubbock Monterey (6-3); Lubbock Cooper (5-4) at Lubbock High; Wylie (6-3) at Lubbock Coronado
- If Abilene Cooper and Wylie both win, the Cougars would be the No. 1 seed in the 4-5A district thanks to their season sweep of the Bulldogs. Monterey would then be the No. 3 seed with Lubbock Cooper taking fourth.
- If Abilene Cooper, Lubbock Cooper, and Coronado win, Abilene Cooper wins the District Championship. This would then create a three-way tie for second place between Lubbock Cooper, Monterey and Wylie. The Bulldogs would get the No. 2 seed as they went 3-1 against the Pirates and Plainsmen, while the Plainsmen would finish No. 3 and Lubbock Cooper No. 4.
- If Monterey, Lubbock Cooper and Wylie win, the Bulldogs earn the No. 1 seed and Monterey the No. 2 seed. Abilene Cooper and Lubbock Cooper would then play either a ranking game or a coin toss to determine the 3 and 4 seeds. under the division of their district contests.
- If Monterey, Lubbock Cooper and Coronado win, the Plainsmen would be the No. 1 seed, the Cougars the No. 2, Lubbock Cooper No. 3 and Wylie No. 4.
ABILENE COOPER 58, LUBBOCK COOPER 51
Lubbock Cooper (14-18, 5-4) — Connor Gant 0 0-1 0, Amaree’ Garmon 6 0-0 13, Shelton Hearon 0 1-2 1, Noah Hall 4 0-2 10, Brady Watson 4 5-8 13, Sam Marcinkowski 2 0-0 4, Cole Cleaveland 1 0-0 2, Hayden Bradley 1 0-0 2, Holton Hendrix 2 2-4 6. Totals 20 8-17 51.
Abilene Cooper (19-10, 6-3) — Drew Gonzalez 4 2-4 11, Colin Reed 2 2-3 6, Jaelyn Rivera 3 0-0 6, Kam Gray 5 1-2 15, Tristen Rau 2 0-0 4, Jalen Cherry 5 2-4 16. Totals 21 7-13 58.
3-point objectives — Lubbock Cooper 3 (Room 2, Garmon); Abilene Cooper 9 (Gray 4, Cherry 4, Gonzalez). Dirtying – Nothing. Technical fouls — Nothing. Total faults — Lubbock Cooper 20; Abilene Cooper 19.