Rosspoint edges JACES for fourth straight county title


John Henson

Rosspoint captured the fifth- and sixth-grade county championship for the fourth straight year with a 25-24 victory Saturday over James A. Cawood. Team members include, from left, front row: Eli Joseph, Hudson Faulkner, Brody Burkhart, Odie Middleton, Bentley Alred, Jax Shepherd and Nathan Barger; back row: coach Randy Daniels, Colby Shepherd, Hayston Hensley, Drew Sergent, Rydge Lewis, Brayden Morris, Gunnar Johnson, Cole Cornett and coach Johnny Simpson

By John Henson, Managing Editor

Rosspoint extended its string of fifth- and sixth-grade county championships to four on Saturday with a hard-fought 25-24 win over James A. Cawood at Harlan County High School.
It was the third meeting of the season between the two county favorites with JACES winning 34-20 on Jan. 25 and Rosspoint winning 31-23 on Feb. 13. James A. Cawood grabbed an early eight-point lead in the finals before Rosspoint rallied. The lead changed hands seven times in the fourth quarter.
“We played great defense all year. Tonight we came out and couldn’t put the ball in the basket, but I was proud of them for stepping up on defense. When it counted, they stepped up and made big shots,” said Rosspoint coach Johnny Simpson, who was an assistant under Ralph Napier on the 2018 team and has been the head coach the past three years. “Colby Shepherd hit some big free throws to put us ahead. JACES is a tough group. They have all improved a lot and had a great season.”
Brayden Morris led a balanced Rosspoint (13-1) attack with eight points. Gunnar Johnson and Cole Cornett added seven and six points, respectively.
“Gunnar is usually one of our top scorers, and I thought they keyed a little on him,” Simpson said. “I told them before the game that we had to have other people step up. Brayden always gives us a boost on defense. Cole hit some big shots, one that we drew up late in the game.”
James A. Cawood (12-2) was led by Tyhler Coots with nine points. Landon Brock, Bryson Bryan and Colton Delaney added five each.
Both teams struggled offensively in the opening quarter with JACES taking a 5-2 lead on two free throws and a three-point play, all by Delaney.
The Trojans’ lead grew to 10-2 when Brock opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer and followed with a basket off a drive into the lane.
Johnson’s two free throws began Rosspoint’s comeback, then Morris took over on the defensive end as he scored three straight baskets to put the Wildcats up 11-10 at halftime.
The offensive struggles for both teams returned in the third quarter as they combined for only five points. Two baskets by Coots gave JACES a 14-12 lead three quarters.
Cornett hit a 3 from the corner to open the fourth quarter, then Morris scored off a steal. A jumper by Cornett and two free throws by Johnson gave Rosspoint a 21-17 advantage with 3:03 left. Bryant reeled off five straight points to give the Trojans a brief lead. Colby Shepherd and Coots traded baskets as JACES led by one with 1:10 left to set up a wild ending.
Rosspoint assistant coach Randy Daniels was assessed a technical just after Simpson and an official had a discussion during a timeout. Brock missed three times at the line before Shepherd hit two with 18.9 seconds remaining to give the Wildcats the lead for good.
Cornett had a chance to extend the lead after a steal, but he missed at the line with 5.6 seconds to play. Brock’s 3-pointer as time expired was off the mark.
The seventh- and eighth-grade tournament continues Monday with a semifinal game matching Rosspoint against Evarts. The winner will play Wallins on Tuesday in the county finals at Harlan County High School.
Brenton Bargo scored 19 points and Bradon Middleton added 11 as Evarts captured third place in the tournament with a 47-30 win over Green Hills.
Ethan Huff poured in 28 points to lead Green Hills.
Rosspoint (25) — Brayden Morris 8, Cole Cornett 6, Colby Shepherd 4, Gunnar Johnson 7.
James A. Cawood (24) — Landon Brock 5, Bryson Bryant 5, Tyhler Coots 9, Colton Delaney 5.
Evarts (47) — Brady Freeman 8, Brenton Bargo 19, Kobe Noe 4, Bradon Middleton 11, Tanner Russell 3, Cain Napier 2.
Green Hills (30) — Ethan Huff 28, Dalton Halcomb 2.