When you talk about a rivalry in Edmonson County, the first team you think of is Grayson County, and it seems like it's been that way for years. (Insert your own Swampee joke here). Senior Cole Bedwell, however, is one Wildcat who disagrees. "I believe here in the last few years it's turned to Butler County, big time," he said. "When this game started, we had chills. A big district game like this? You're always going to get those butterflies when you start, but as the game goes on, you start to settle and get more comfortable."
And comfortable Bedwell seemed, as he was part of a nail biting stretch where ECHS hit 8 free throws in a row in the last three minutes of the game. Bedwell, who scored 15 points, was 9-12 from the foul line, two of which stretched the lead to 72-68 with 22.5 seconds to go. "Being a senior, you have to use your experience from these types of games and just go up there with confidence."
Austin "Cuban" Sowders led the Wildcats offensively with 22 points and 12 rebounds. ECHS led by 10 at the half, but the Bears refused to go away and kept it close with a couple of runs in the third. That's when the Wildcats started pushing the ball inside. "We wanted to play inside-out," said coach Mike McClintic. "Once Austin gets going, or Chase, or whoever we have inside, it also opens up our shooters. They played Sowders lots of 1-on-1 in the third, and he got the best of it." Sowders gave credit to his team mates. "I got in position, but the guys just kept getting me the ball," he said. "We're just playing good team ball right now."
Sowders also hit two free throws with 1:57 to go, giving the Cats a 68-63 lead. His biggest play of the night, however, actually came when he short-armed two free throws, but got his own rebound and scored with just 13 seconds to go, sealing the deal, 74-68. Senior guard Dakota Woodcock, who scored 13 points, said "Once you go man-to-man, there's not anybody that can guard him, (Sowders) so we just kept telling him to take it to 'em."
Woodcock was 8-8 from the free throw line. "You just act like it's another free throw you're shooting in practice," he said. "Don't listen to the other team, zone everything out and just make 'em."
Coach Mac said one of the team's goals all year has been to make it to the regional tournament. Now that it will happen, the 12th district title is also within sight. "This one was the important one because we get to move on, so we've reached one goal (the regional), now we're looking for the second one (district)."
He also said that the 12 point lead his team held with about 5:00 to go began to disappear not because his guys became relaxed, but because they got in a hurry. "We didn't get in our offense the way we wanted to. We tried to do some things that we don't usually do."
Coach also discussed overhearing the seniors talk about the absence of a district championship banner since 1993. "They know it...they see the old banner at the end of the gym." He said they didn't say it directly to him, but to the other players, trying to keep them focused. "They're just good kids...on and off the court. I think it shows how they've been raised, and it's great."
Other scorers were Chase Turley with 9, Hunter Buttram with 7, Daniel Caudill added 5, and Senior Trevor Norris nailed a huge three pointer down the stretch.
The game was emotionally charged as referees separated players during scuffles multiple times, opposing fans shouted at each other, and police gave a warning to Butler County's student section. So, which is the bigger rivalry? Grayson? Butler? If the Wildcats want a new district championship banner, looks like they'll have to beat both teams to do it. The Wildcats will play Grayson County in the championship game on Friday night. Tipoff is scheduled for 7pm.
Darren Doyle, story
Scott Skaggs, photos