GRC Cardinals rout Bracken County, 84-33, in season’s final game

Published 9:05 am Wednesday, February 14, 2018

By Keith Taylor

Special to The Sun

Ryan Cooper wanted to go out with a bang in his last game at Norton Gymnasium.

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The George Rogers Clark senior guard made four 3-pointers to lead the Cardinals to an 84-33 win over Bracken County Saturday afternoon. Cooper made four of the Cardinals’ 11 shots from long range, including three in the first quarter to set the tone for the easy victory.

“I was feeling pretty good,” Cooper said. “It was our last home game and I wanted to go out with a good game. I’ve played four years here (with) a lot of blood, sweat and tears. I just wanted to have a good game overall. It was a have-fun game.”

The Cardinals (25-3) have won 15 straight going into the final week of the regular season. After opening the season with two losses in its first five games, Clark has won 22 of the past 23 games and hasn’t lost since a 67-53 setback to Louisville Male on Dec. 29 in the finals of the City of Middletown Holiday Classic.

Clark coach Josh Cook wasn’t worried about his team’s demeanor prior to the contest against the Polar Bears who have just won three games in 18 tries.

“We wanted to take care of business,” Cook said. “Our kids understand, night in and night out, any team you play, you want to go play at a high level and we’ve broke our season down that way. In the first quarter, they were executing their stuff really well and it challenged our kids to make sure they were focused.”

Clark zoomed in and forced 21 turnovers, collected 15 steals and had 25 assists on 31 made field goal attempts.

“Our defense just got better,” Cook said. “They did a good job early on of running their offense, but credit our depth and bench. They came in and really brought us energy and a spurt. We’re much bigger when we guard and we want shots to be contested and we have great defensive possessions. We are a much-better basketball team when we guard and rotate correctly.”

Jordan Graham followed Cooper with 15 points and added a one-handed slam dunk in the third quarter. Brennan Canada rounded out three players in double figures with 16 points. Overall, 11 players entered the scoring column for the hosts.

“We have pieces,” Cook said. “We’re a team that pieces together very well and they’ve all sold out (to the fact) that when you move the basketball and get other guys involved, it makes everybody better.”

Despite making five treys in the opening eight minutes, Clark held a 21-15 lead going into the second quarter, but put the game away by outscoring the Polar Bears 23-7 in the second quarter.

“They’re really good and there’s a reason they are (ranked) 15th in the state and maybe a little bit better than that,” Bracken County coach Jason Hinson said. “I thought in the first quarter, we ran our stuff well, and I thought we handled their pressure really well in the first quarter. He made a good adjustment of running and jumping us with his athletes and we had to make quick decisions.”

With an improving defense, Cook likes the way his team is meshing with one week remaining until the postseason begins.

“We’re getting there (and) our kids are really trying to focus on doing their job,” Cook said. “That’s what we want our kids to do. If you have a job, do it and do something as well on the side.”

Gametracker: Clark at Frederick Douglass, 7:30 p.m., Tuesday.