One of the tournament favorites heading into the 100th boys’ Sweet Sixteen, the Bowling Green Purples found themselves in a bit of a tough spot Wednesday afternoon.
A big star stepping up on a big stage and a little improvisation helped save the day for Bowling Green, which recovered from a slow start to put away Graves County, 68-51, and advance to the state quarterfinals.
The Purples were down 17-13 early in the second quarter when senior guard DeAngelo Wilson went to the bench with his third foul. Graves County was enjoying a 7-0 run at that point, and Eagles senior 7-footer Chris Vogt was having his way around the basket.
It was time for Bowling Green’s do-everything senior, Terry Taylor, to show what he could do.
Taylor — a 6-6 forward — sank a three-pointer to stop the Graves County run. A little more than a minute later, Taylor hit another big three to give the Purples a 21-19 advantage. Bowling Green never trailed again.
“Coach tells us to always take good game shots, and I felt they were great game shots,” Taylor said. “Once I hit my first one, I just kept going and feeding off of it.”
Still, the Purples led by only two points at halftime.
It was their defense that put Graves County away for good.
Box score: Bowling Green 68, Graves County 51
Bowling Green Coach D.G. Sherrill decided — with some trepidation — to go with a 2-3 zone to start the second half. The moved paid off, and the Purples forced seven turnovers in the first five minutes of the period, many of those leading to Bowling Green baskets at the other end.
“We’re not a very good zone team, but it looked better than it’s ever looked in practice,” Sherrill said. “I was a little nervous about going to it. But they were getting what they wanted offensively.”
Graves County Coach Josh Frick said that his bunch got the shots they wanted in the first half. The Purples’ zone disrupted that offensive rhythm.
“They just kind of put us back on their heels,” Frick said. “They have great length at every spot. At one time, it felt like they had four bigs out on the floor. The length really bothered our guard play in the second half.
“We just had a bad five-minute stretch there in the third quarter, and they really took control of the game from there.”
By the end of the third quarter, Bowling Green was ahead 51-37. Vogt — a Northern Kentucky signee — fouled out with 5:15 left in the game and the Eagles down 16 points, and Sherrill pulled his starters not long after that.
Taylor, who will play at Austin Peay next season, had 20 points, four rebounds and four assists, shooting 8-for-11 from the floor for the Purples. Highly touted eighth-grader Zion Harmon added 17 points and three steals.