Darren Doyle, story: Madison Doyle, photos:
The Wildcats powered through a rough first half and came together as they figured out a way to win over the scrappy and resilient Trinity Raiders 63-51 to advance to the District 12 finals on Friday night.
The Raiders came out strong with a 10-2 lead in the first quarter as they muscled their way in the paint, getting easy buckets from offensive rebounds. The Wildcats seemed a little rattled as they were pushed around from the physical play of Trinity but they clawed their way back to cut their deficit to 12-10 going into the second.
Both teams traded baskets during the second quarter and the score was tied 26-26 at halftime.
"It was pretty simple," said Assistant Coach Bart Weaver. "We just told them that it's time to step up. At halftime, we had a pretty good speech or two," he said laughing. "But this is the district tournament. We're not going to get those little easy fouls. We said when you go up for a layup, go up like a man, and I thought we did a much better job in the second half being stronger around the basket."
The third quarter was where the Wildcats' game plan of being aggressive to the basket, rebounding, and taking care of the ball began to let them see some results. They took a 44-40 lead going into the final quarter.
Senior leadership was key once again in the fourth quarter as big baskets from Bailey Board and Caleb Skaggs along with the strength and athleticism of Daniel Caudill began to take the wind out of Trinity's sails. Skaggs converted on two three-point plays and a big three pointer during the run that spelled doom for the Raiders, none bigger than a layup and foul with 1:56 left. His free throw gave the Cats a 58-51 lead and they were able to hit their foul shots down the stretch to go on for the win, ending Trinity's season while advancing to the district finals and the Region 3 Tournament.
"Caleb hit some big shots and Bailey had a couple of nice drives," said Weaver. "I don't know what Daniel's stat line is, but Daniel was a man tonight and that bleeds over to your teammates, so that was big how he stepped up and played really physical."
The Wildcats also succeeded in a team effort once again with four players in double figures. Skaggs led the way with 21 points, Bailey Board had 16, Daniel Caudill had 12, and Iszic Blankenship had 10 points and 9 rebounds.
The win gives Edmonson County a chance to bring home the first district championship title for the Wildcats since 1993. Coach Weaver said it's time to end the 24 year drought.
"We're in the finals and that's what it's all about."
Also helping in the effort was Tucker Cole and Brayden Carey with two points each. The Wildcats are now 18-10 on the season.
The Wildcats are scheduled to take on Butler County in Friday night's finals, who defeated Grayson County last night. Tipoff is scheduled for 7pm at Butler County High School. The WildcatsLive pregame show will start around 6:50pm, only on EdmonsonVoice.com.