UNIONVILLE — It was hard to stop the Pearl Cohn Firebirds (20-8) once they picked up steam in the Region 4-AA Championship game on Thursday night, and they found their groove early in the …
UNIONVILLE — It was hard to stop the Pearl Cohn Firebirds (20-8) once they picked up steam in the Region 4-AA Championship game on Thursday night, and they found their groove early in the contest with the Cascade Champions (27-6) which translated to a 86-68 victory and the region title.
Firebird guards Keith Roland, Doyel Cokrill, and Javion Kinnard combined for 68 points, and accounted for all 10 of Pearl Cohn’s three-pointers on the night, including seven in the first half.
Each of the trio knocked down a three-pointer in the opening frame with Kinnard sinking two through the net, and combining with Cockrill for 15 first-quarter points as part of a 20 point total coming out of the gates.
“They shot the ball really well to start and got hot from deep,” Cascade head coach Chris Lawson said.
“We had a game plan, but they got out ahead of us and we had to adjust, defensively. They’re very quick and good ball-handlers. We had a hard time staying in front, but you have to give Pearl Cohn a lot of credit. They played really well tonight.”
Despite the Firebirds’ onslaught, the Champions didn’t lay down and let Pearl Cohn run away with it in the first half as Lucas Clanton knocked down a trio of three-pointers in the first, and added eight more points in the second frame to help keep Cascade within striking distance.
Cockrill and Roland dropped in a pair of threes less than a minute into the second frame to take a 15-point lead, but the Champions battled back throughout the quarter by holding Pearl Cohn to only six points the rest of the quarter, and went on a 6-0 run in the last two minutes to cut their deficit to 32-27 at halftime.
“Their fight is what I think I love the most about this group of guys,” Lawson said.
“They don’t ever quit and when we get down a little bit, they always put up a fight. We were without a starter in Thomas Gentry tonight, and that hurt on both ends of the floor. Next guy up, and they played as hard as they possibly could.”
But it didn’t take long for Pearl Cohn to get back in their groove as they found themselves back with a double-digit advantage after going on a 10-4 run over the opening three minutes of the third quarter.
A few minutes later, they matched that run to take a 17-point lead with Cockrill knocking down a pair of treys and Kinnard adding one of his own to reach their total of 10 on the night.
“It’s like you’re swimming upstream, and you’re constantly fighting that,” Lawson said.
“You knock them back a little bit, but then they hit another three, get a couple more baskets, or get fouled and go to the free throw line. Things like that make it hard to come back, but I was really proud of our guys for battling to the end.”
Isaac McElroy led the way for Cascade in the third frame with eight points off all layups, but they found themselves down 63-43 heading into the final frame.
The Champions were never within single-digits for the rest of the contest, but they were able to cut their deficit to 71-57 after Clanton and McElroy combined for 12 points over the first four minutes of the final frame.
Clanton added one more three-pointer in the final 30 seconds for a total of six on the night and a game-high 30 points for the Champions.
“Tonight, they started out guarding him (Clanton) one-on-one, and he got going a little bit,” Lawson said.
“Once he got in a groove, he was hard to stop. When you’re feeling it, you’re just looking for opportunities. He did a great job of getting inside and knocking down some outside shots as well.”
The Firebirds closed out their win by going 15-of-18 from the free throw to cap off a 25-point final frame with Roland going a perfect 10-of-10 from the line.
With the loss, the Champions will travel to York Institute for their sectional matchup with the Dragons on Monday night for their first shot at making the state tournament since traveling to Clay County two years ago where they suffered a heartbreaking loss in the final moments.
“We’re gonna put in a plan to play York, and get prepared to play,” Lawson said.
“Two years ago we played well on the road in substate at Clay County, and I have all the confidence in the world that this group can play well in that environment too.”
Pearl Cohn 20 12 29 25 — 86
Cascade 11 16 16 25 — 68
Pearl Cohn: Keith Roland 26, Doyel Cockrill 21, Javion Kinnard 21, Mekhi Wallace 17, Tre Uzzle 1.
Cascade: Lucas Clanton 30, Isaac McElroy 17, Saebyn Burris 13, Jackson Davis 8.
3-Point goals: Pearl Cohn (10): Cockrill 5, Kinnard 3, Roland 2.; Cascade (8): Clanton 6, Burris, McElroy.
Halftime score: Pearl Cohn 32, Cascade 27.
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