After trailing by nine points several times in the first half, then by eight in the third quarter, the eighth-grade Cougars went on a 14-0 run in the fourth quarter to steal a 52-48 win over visiting Edmonson County.
“I kept telling our players ‘We can beat these guys… we’re going to win,’” said coach Shawn Majors after the game. “That was our best game of the year.”
In the opening game, the visiting Wildcats used a 16-0 run to take charge in the second period and they went on to take a 42-32 win.
On a night when the Cougars were short-handed due to injury and illness, they got several outstanding performances on their way to the comeback win.
Conner Schultz led the team with 16 points, 10 of them in the second half, and added five rebounds. Gerritt Dennison came off the bench to pour in 11 points and pull down six rebounds for the Cougars. Reserve Dustin Woosley scored just four points, but he led the team on the boards with eight rebounds.
But it was the play of Beau Dennis that turned the game around. He had 12 points, 10 of them in the key fourth quarter, to spearhead the comeback.
The visitors led by as many as six points in the opening period before the Cougars closed to within four, 15-11 heading into the second period.
Edmonson’s Caleb Skaggs opened the second period with a three-pointer to make it 18-11, then following a Dennison basket at the 4:38 mark, hit another three at the 3:35 mark to push the Wildcat lead to eight points, 21-13.
Skaggs hit his third three of the period with 48 seconds left to give the Wildcats their first nine-point lead, 27-18.
Dennison hit a pair of free throws with 37.7 seconds left to make it 29-22, but Bailey Board hit a 15-footer to make it nine points again, 31-22 with 23 seconds remaining in the half.
Schultz was fouled on a three-point attempt with under a second left. He missed the first, but made the next two to make it a seven-point game, 31-24 at the half.
Skaggs opened the third-quarter with a 10-footer to push the lead back up to nine, 33-24, but baskets by Woosley and Bryce Horn pared it back to five, 33-28 at the 3:06 mark.
The Wildcats went back up by eight points, 39-31 following two free throws by Braden Carey with 1:27 left, but the Cougars scored the final four points of the period, capped by Schutltz’ three-point play with 27 seconds left, to cut the deficit to four points, 39-35 heading into the fourth quarter.
A Carey lay-up at the 4:39 mark saw the Wildcats holding a six-point lead, 43-37, and that’s when the Cougars took off.
Two bonus free throws by Schultz cut the deficit to four, 43-39 with 4:22 left. Dennis then went to the line on consecutive possessions with the chance to tie things. For a while, it looked as though Dennis would be the goat as he missed the first three shots, but made the last to pull the Cougars to within three points, 43-40.
But then Dennis went into hero-mode, stealing the ball and driving for a lay-up to make it 43-42 with 2:45 left.
The Wildcats called a timeout, but back on the floor, Dennison stole the ball and got it to Dennis who scored to give the Cougars the lead 44-43. Dennis was fouled on the play and hit the free throw to make it 45-43.
Both teams had empty trips before the Cougars called a timeout with 1:19 remaining. As play resumed, Dennis made a strong move along the baseline and dropped in a 10-foot tear-drop that gave the Cougars a four-point lead, 47-43.
When the Wildcats missed at their end, Dennison rebounded the ball and got it up the floor to a streaking Dennis, who put it in to make it 49-43 with 54 seconds left to play. Schultz added two free throws with 26.8 seconds left, capping a 14-0 Cougar run that saw them take an improbable eight-point lead, 51-43.
With the game seemingly over, Skaggs hit his fourth three-pointer before the Cougars turned the ball over. Board scored on a lay-in with nine seconds left to make it just a three-point game, 51-48.
Dennison was fouled with 4.3 seconds left and went to the line with the chance to ice the game. He missed the first free throw, but made the second and the Cougars knew they had the win.
Skaggs led all scorers with 18 points, while Carey scored 10.
Horn, another reserve player, also had a good game for the Cougars, scoring five points and adding three rebounds and a steal. Hunter Shiarella closed out the scoring with four points and led the team in assists with four.
Ethan Carter tied the game 4-4 with a lay-in at the 3:50 mark, then both teams went scoreless until there were just 5.9 seconds left, when Josh Embry scored to put the Cougars on top 6-4.
Edmonson’s Logan Lindsey then buried a shot from half-court to beat the buzzer and give the Wildcats a one-point lead, 7-6 as the second quarter got under way.
Logan Majors hit a pair of free throws with 3:18 left in the first half to tie the score once more, 13-13, and Rylee Shoemaker followed with a rebound basket with 2:24 left to put the Cougars on top 15-13.
Those would be the last points the Cougars would score until the 3:34 mark of the third quarter. The Wildcats scored the final 12 points of the first half, then added four more to start the third period to increase their lead to 14 points, 29-15.
Lindsey closed out the third period with another three-pointer to give the visitors a 16-point advantage, 36-20 heading into the final period of play.
Grayson County opened the fourth quarter with seven unanswered points to close to within nine of the lead, 36-27, but they would get no closer.
Carey led all scorers with 13 points for the Wildcats, and Lindsey finished with 11.
Shoemaker led the Cougars with nine points, and added five rebounds. Embry and Carter both had seven points and Carter added six rebounds while Embry had four. Jack Davis scored three points and shared the rebounding lead with six.
Three players, Majors, Ethan Hayse and Austin Clark each had two points to close out the scoring.