Cats Win 62-58
Darren Doyle, story: Madison Doyle, photos:
Normally a 7-point performance in high school basketball doesn't turn many heads, but when the points all come at crucial moments in a double overtime victory against a district opponent on the road, including a three-pointer that ties the game in the final minutes, it becomes a bit more noticeable.
That's exactly what happened in the grueling back-and-forth contest last night in Whitesville. Senior Cole Saling didn't see a ton of playing time last night and his stat line was 7 points and 1 rebound, but they were the biggest seven points of the night for the Wildcats.
With the Cats down 55-58 with 1:20 left in the second overtime, senior Trace Taylor threw a pass to Saling, who was in the left corner. He buried a three-pointer to tie the score at 58. It was his first points of the game.
Saling wasn't finished playing hero for the Wildcats. After a couple possessions from either team without scoring, the Wildcats committed a turnover which allowed Trinity a contested layup attempt in transition. That shot missed and Saling pulled the rebound. His only one of the game. He was fouled as he was clobbered to the ground and would have two free throws coming to him, per the double-bonus.
With 33 seconds left, Saling calmly hit both free throws to give the Cats a 60-58 lead. Trinity's next possession ended up with a blocked shot by Edmonson County's Zander Bass with Taylor grabbing the loose ball. Saling was fouled again after he caught the pass from Taylor. Saling was not able to connect on the next two free throws with 17.9 second left, but after Trinity rebounded his second miss, the Raiders' Bailey Wright traveled with 6.7 seconds on the clock. Saling caught the inbound pass on the next play and was fouled immediately.
He iced two free throws with 6.2 on the clock. Trinity missed a shot on their final possession as the Wildcats grabbed the rebound as time expired.
Coach Brad Johnson became emotional as he spoke of not only Saling's performance, but also the way he handled himself.
"Cole Saling, the senior, sat on the bench and had minutes taken from him," he said. "He was a starter. He sat there, sat there, sat there, and didn't pout about it--no negative body language. He comes in and nails a three when we were dead. Then makes the free throws. That's what it's all about, man."
Edmonson was up 23-17 at the half but the third quarter started miserably for the Cats with 6 turnovers on their first 6 possessions. The ended up with 24 turnovers for the game while Trinity had 20 of their own. Trinity was able to put together a 14-0 run from the end of the second through part of the third to take a 26-23 lead. Each team was able to put together runs throughout the 4th quarter.
The Cats led 49-46 with 20 seconds left but Trinity's Landon Huff tied the score on a three with 4.7 seconds left. Confusingly, Edmonson County did not get a shot off in the final seconds, which forced the first overtime. Each team exchanged baskets in the first overtime and Trinity had a 54-52 lead. Senior Evan Stice nailed a three to give the Cats the 55-52 lead with 38 seconds to go. Trinity drew a foul on their next possession and hit one of two free throws to tie the game with 32 seconds left.
Edmonson's Braden Wall was fouled on a shot attempt with 4.5 seconds left. His first free throw was off the back of the rim and his second one was in-and-out. Trinity's shot at the buzzer was no good to force the second overtime where Saling took care of the rest.
Wall led the Cats with 21 points and 11 rebounds and Tyler Anderson added 14 points and 8 rebounds. Stice had 6 points and 2 rebounds, Braxton Highbaugh had 6 points and 7 rebounds, Taylor added 4 points and 5 rebounds, and Zander Bass had 3 points and a rebound.
The Cats host Russellville at home tonight for the final home game of the season. They are scheduled to travel to Green County on Thursday before the district tournament begins on Tuesday at Butler County, where the Cats will face Trinity again. Since each team is tied in the district standings at 3-3 and 1-1 against each other, a coin toss will determine who is the home team in that game.