High School Basketball

Sweet Sixteen: Late burst pushes Southwestern into semis

Rowan County's D.J. Townsend, right, hugged Adam Wing, who shot 2-for-13 to follow up his stellar performance in last year's tournament. "I tried not to think about that as much as I could," Wing said. "but I just let these guys down shooting the way I did."
Rowan County's D.J. Townsend, right, hugged Adam Wing, who shot 2-for-13 to follow up his stellar performance in last year's tournament. "I tried not to think about that as much as I could," Wing said. "but I just let these guys down shooting the way I did." HERALD-LEADER

Steve Wright had bigger fish to fry than to fret about coaching against his former assistant, Shawn Thacker.

"I like Shawn a lot, care about him a great deal," Wright said. "But I was a lot more worried about (Adam) Wing, (D.J.) Townsend and (Jason) Egan."

Wright's focus paid off as his Southwestern Warriors rode a 13-0 fourth-quarter flurry to a 67-57 win over Thacker's Rowan County Vikings.

Southwestern, on its first trip to the PNC/KHSAA Boys' State Basketball Tournament, thus advanced to Saturday's semifinals in Rupp Arena.

Rowan (26-8) was derailed in its bid to return to the championship game, where it lost to Christian County in double overtime last year.

David Kapinga, a 5-foot-9 Congolese sophomore, led Southwestern (29-8) with 18 points, six rebounds, five assists and five steals.

"I haven't been in a situation like this, but it feels great being here," Kapinga said. "A lot of pressure on you. But you live for pressure. You live to execute."

Justin Edwards had a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Cody Epperson chipped in with 14 points.

Rowan County got 19 points from Townsend and 16 from Egan. Wing, who was 12-for-13 from three-point range in last year's semifinals and finals, grabbed 10 rebounds and had five assists but was held to five points.

"I'm disappointed in myself going 2-for-13 from the field," the 6-foot-4 Evansville recruit said. "I felt like there was, I guess, a lot of pressure on me to perform the way I did last year. I tried not to think about that as much as I could, but I just let these guys down shooting the way I did."

The Vikings scored the last eight points of the third quarter to tie the game at 45, then got a fast-break basket by Townsend to lead 47-45.

Everything went South(western) after that.

The Warriors scored the next 13 points to lead 58-47. Justin Epperson scored five of his nine points during that stretch. Kapinga added four. Edwards and Justin Schulz had two each.

"We've been really mentally tough from the standpoint that whenever someone makes a run, we answer it," Wright said. "We've been that way for weeks. We made some changes in our defense in the fourth quarter because they were starting to find seams and do some things to us. And we just got more aggressive offensively.

"We didn't have a great first half, and I think our kids were very confident at halftime that we were going to get it together in the second half. And our defense and our rebounding allowed us to stay in the game."

Rowan went 5:25 without scoring, going 0-for-3 from the field and committing seven of its 18 turnovers.

Wing ended the drought with a three-pointer, but only 1:46 remained. The Vikings never came closer than seven points as Southwestern scored its last 11 points at the free-throw line.

Overall, the Warriors made 28 of 37 free throws — 18-for-22 in the fourth quarter.

"Just concentration," said Edwards, who went 5-for-6 at the line. "You just step up there, relax and shoot them."

Rowan made 10 of 16 free throws.

"We were stuck on 45 for too long," Thacker said. "And then we put them at the free-throw line. We knew they were a good free-throw shooting team coming in. ... They got to the line more than we did throughout the first three quarters, and that was the big difference. And when we did get to the line, we didn't convert at the rate that we needed to."

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader

  Comments