COOK: Titans played state’s final 4

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By Josh Cook

Kudos to Collins boys’ basketball coach Chris Gaither for his scheduling this past season.

Even though the Titans’ 2012-13 campaign ended earlier than Gaither would have hoped, with their overtime loss to eventual champ South Oldham in the first round of the 8th Region Tournament, he and his players can take solace in the fact that they played all four teams in the Sweet Sixteen’s semifinals.

Collins met state runner-up Ballard in a preseason scrimmage, then took on state champion Madison Central as well as semifinalists Hopkinsville and Montgomery County during the regular season.

And even though the Titans were on the losing end of all four contests Gaither should get credit for his “to be the best you have to play the best” philosophy, as well as his clairvoyance. Sure Collins lost to Madison Central by 11, Hopkinsville by 1 and Montgomery County by 12, but each of those was close – we won’t mention the scrimmage in which Ballard hit 20 3-pointers – until the end.

Madison Central beat Collins, 70-59, on Dec. 11. In that game Indians’ standout Dominique Hawkins, who recently has attracted interest from the University of Kentucky, finished with 14 points. However, he was just 3-for-10 from the field (he made up for it by going 7-of-9 from the free-throw line).

Meanwhile senior guard Ken Jah Bosley, who hit the game-winning 3-pointer to beat Ballard in the state final, tallied only five points against the Titans. He was 2-for-14 from the field, including 1-for-5 from 3-point range.

Madison Central’s big hero in its victory over Collins was senior forward George Walker, who came off the bench to score 19 points, thanks to 6-of-8 shooting (including 3 for 5 from 3-point range). In the state final, though, Walker had only one point.

Here’s another tidbit, Collins senior forward Dez Marshall played on the same AAU team as three of Madison Central’s best players – Hawkins, Bosley and senior forward Quan Taylor (who had 16 points in the championship game).  


College notes

Now for some quick takes on the men’s basketball teams at the universities of Louisville and Kentucky:

§       UofL paid tribute to junior center Gorgui Dieng, who in all likelihood will turn pro after the end of this season, during its “Senior Day” on Saturday.  However it probably should’ve honored Justin Coleman with at least a shout-out. Coleman was Dieng’s teammate at Huntington (W.V.) Prep and the reason he ended up with the Cardinals. Dieng accompanied Coleman on his recruiting visit to UofL in early 2010 and a few days after Coleman signed with the Cards, Dieng followed suit. At the time Coleman was viewed as the better prospect (another reason not to put much stock in recruiting rankings), but look at them now. Earlier this week Dieng, who is averaging 10.3 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game for fourth-ranked Louisville, earned first-team All-Big East honors as well as garnering the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year award. Meanwhile Coleman, who never qualified academically to play at UofL then had a brief stay at Marshall, played this season at Midland (Texas) Junior College. I’d say UofL ended up with the better end of that deal.

§       The Cards, meanwhile, enter this week’s Big East Tournament seeded No. 2. If recent history is any indication Louisville will make the Final Four if it can cut down the nets in Madison Square Garden. That’s because each of the past three Big East tourney champs (UofL last season, Connecticut in 2011 and West Virginia in 2010) ended up in the Final Four.   

§       Unless Kentucky absolutely bombs in the Southeastern Conference Tournament this week I think the Wildcats will make the NCAA Tournament, most likely as a 12 seed playing in the “First Four” in Dayton.  So in the interim I’ve been trying to come up with the most intriguing matchup for the Wildcats. For a while I was hoping they might play North Carolina, but then the Tar Heels won six in a row before losing to Duke last Saturday. Then I moved on to Minnesota, however Tubby Smith’s team has played more like one bound for the NIT lately. UK vs. Western Kentucky would be a fun, but I doubt the Hilltoppers get sent to the “First Four” for the second year in a row. Baylor and Villanova could be other possibilities, but right now I’m hoping for Cincinnati – wouldn’t that be a tough ticket in Dayton? However the Bearcats, who have lost six of their last nine heading into today’s game against Providence in the first round of the Big East Tournament, may have to win at least one more to make the Big Dance. Here’s hoping they do, and that they play UK.