Tournament experience and a determination to stick to the game plan added up to an Owensboro victory in Wednesday's opening game of the Whitaker Bank/ KHSAA Boys' State Basketball Tournament.
The Red Devils, making their record 43rd state tourney appearance, led all the way en route to a 55-38 triumph over Collins.
"I thought we came out a little sluggish early on," Owens boro Coach Rod Drake said, "but we played to our game plan. ... We knew that they were a very methodical, slow team and that if we put our defensive pressure on them we could get them to play our style of play. And I thought we did that three-quarters of the ball game. These guys stepped up after the first quarter.
"Psychologically, being up here last year really helped us out a lot."
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The win moves the Devils into Friday's quarterfinals.
Owensboro rode a big one-two punch in the post as 6-foot-7 Justin Miller scored 18 points, and 6-9 Aric Holman put up 15 points, nine rebounds, three assists and four blocks. Darion Morrow, a 5-9 senior guard, also had 15 points, plus four assists.
"I think they're two of the best post players in the state," Drake said of Miller and Holman. "... I don't think there's anybody that can stop these two. They complement each other well."
Seventh-rated Owensboro (28-4) led 28-18 at halftime.
The Red Devils opened a gap by coming out of a timeout with an 8-0 second quarter run that made it 26-16.
"Out of that timeout, we had two turnovers, and I think that was kind of like the summary of the game," Collins Coach Chris Gaither said. "Any time we were close and any time we were ready to make a run, we turned the ball over. ... I feel like if we ever got the lead, we're good enough controlling the basketball, controlling the tempo, we would be good enough to win the game."
The 13th-rated Titans (26-9) were led by Brent Kidwell with 11 points and three assists. Mark Sorrells added nine points.
Deion Cochran, averaging 16.8, was held to four first-half points and finished 1-for-10 from the field while being hounded by Owensboro's defensive stopper.
"Airius Phillips, our point guard, he's a presence," Drake said. "He's probably one of the toughest kids in Western Kentucky. Broke his arm midway through the football season, came back, finished at state finals and he came over with us. He loves guarding the other team's best player. He wanted him today."
Collins was still within nine points late in the third quarter at 35-26.
Owensboro scored the next seven points, kick-starting a 16-3 spurt that left no doubt which team would win.
"Owensboro did a great job of attacking the post early in the game and we struggled," Gaither said. "I think they scored the first five possessions of the game, which we really wanted to create things off of our defense to start the game.
"Offensively, throughout the game, throughout the season we talked a lot about our turnover and assist ratio. We had 15 turnovers to nine assists, and we really struggled getting in the flow on offense throughout the game."
Owensboro finished with a 32-14 advantage with points in the paint, 13-2 in points off of turnovers.
The Red Devils also made 15 of 21 free throws to Collins' 1-for-3, and outrebounded the Titans 29-20.