In a tug-of-war over tempo, Oldham County yanked out a 55-48 victory over Bowling Green in the first round of the PNC/KHSAA Boys' State Basketball Tournament in Rupp Arena on Thursday afternoon.
Bowling Green came into the game averaging a shade more than 70 points, and it was Oldham County's stated goal to slow down the Purples.
The Colonels did just that and walked off the court with the school's first state tournament victory in nine years.
Bowling Green Coach D.G. Sherrill credited Oldham County for dictating the pace and holding his team to its lowest score of the season.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
"We play a four-guard set, and we want to spread the floor and play fast," he said.
"We talked all week about how Oldham County wanted to keep us in the 40s. And they did it. We're not going to win a lot of games when we score under 50 points."
Oldham County kept Bowling Green from getting out in transition, and the Colonels' half-court zone kept the Purples' quick guards — Nacarius Fant, Scooter Hollis and Dareon Simmons, from effective penetration.
Bowling Green didn't shoot well in the second half, either, going 9-for-27 (33 percent).
Oldham County was much more proficient offensively, with Sam Gruber leading the way with 16 points, including four three-pointers. Gruber said Oldham County got valuable experience while playing in Rupp last March in a first-round loss to Clark County.
"Last year, it was like we were taking it all in. We didn't know what to expect, and we were kind of shell-shocked. This year, we knew the bright lights and what to expect."
The Colonels' Tyler Wesely had a major impact on the game. The 6-foot-4 senior had 12 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, two steals and two blocked shots. He also brought the ball up the court against Bowling Green's pressure some of the time.
"He makes me look smart," Coach Jason Holland said.
Sherrill said Wesely was a "matchup nightmare if you can't get the game going fast. They can exploit you with his strengths in the half court.
"He geared down late in the game and did what he had to do to help his team win. He's a complete player."
Free throws were big for Oldham County all day. It hit 11 of 12 in the first half and led 27-26. In the final minutes, it made eight of nine to close out the Purples.
For the game, the Colonels were 20-for-24 from the line.
"We stepped up and made them when we needed to," Holland said.
Jacob Kopp had 13 points and three assists for Oldham County, which won its 16th game in a row and its 30th of the season.
If the Colonels can win their quarterfinal game, they'll tie the school record for victories set in the early 1960s and earn a spot in the state semifinals for the third time in school history.
Bowling Green was led by three players who were part of the Purples' undefeated state championship football team. Hollis had 14 points. Jalen Hunter had 12 points and seven rebounds, and Fant added 11 points, six rebounds and four assists.
Bowling Green's loss didn't diminish its accomplishment of reaching the Sweet Sixteen after graduating five starters, including All-American Chane Behanan, last year.
"These kids just kept fighting for me all year," Sherrill said.