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Braves look to improve game in sectional
Right after Ronnie Cookson's Scott County Central team breezed to the Class 1 District 3 title by outscoring its two district opponents 159-90, the legendary coach -- who has led 12 Braves teams to state championships -- gave his typical response when asked what areas his boys needed to improve on in the sectional round.
"Everything," Cookson said. "We just need to work. And we make a lot of mistakes and we need to cut down on our mistakes."
Cookson also gave one of his typical responses when asked if he and his players already are thinking ahead to winning a state title.
"The next game -- not really the state title just the next game," Cookson said. "If we win every game and win our last game, we'll have that."
The Braves (25-2), the No. 2 ranked team in Class 1 behind only defending state champion Jefferson, continue their Class 1 title quest when they play St. Elizabeth in a sectional game today at 6 p.m. at Park Hills Central High School in Park Hills. It will be followed by a girls sectional showdown between Delta and Tuscumbia at 7:45 p.m.
This is the sixth straight year that the Braves have advanced to the sectional round. But they only have won one sectional game during the stretch. That win came last year en route to placing third in Class 1. Scott County is aiming toward its 13th state championship in school history and its first since 1993.
St. Elizabeth is ranked fifth in Class 1 and posted a 22-3 regular-season record.
"We just need to keep improving and improving like better rebounding and like working on the press a little bit more and just better defense," senior Desmin Williams said.
The Braves did not play a clean first half against Bell City in the district title game Thursday. Cookson said his players struggled somewhat with ballhandling. He added that his team had some chances where it could have forced more steals and grabbed more rebounds, but did not.
"They picked it up the second half," Cookson said. "I was very pleased with the way they come out and played their defense. That wasn't what I was aggravated about."
When junior Bobby Hatchett was asked which areas the Braves must improve before the showdown with St. Elizabeth, he gave pretty much the same response as his coach.
"Everything," Hatchett said. "Everything that we can, we're trying to improve on. We're trying to get better, have fun, stick together and just try to get a state championship. We've just got to work hard. ... We're looking at a state championship, of course, but it's one game at a time. You've got to play every game like your last game."
Scott County needs to do a better job shooting free throws tonight after converting just 44 percent (11 of 25) from the line in the district championship game.
"Coach stresses a lot about shooting [free throws] after practice," Williams said. "The first time he had told us to shoot 25 free throws. We'd get into game play and that seemed not to work, so next thing you know he told us to shoot 50 free throws in practice. We just got to keep going on and keep going and just knocking them down."
Otto Porter returned to the starting lineup and scored 10 points against Bell City after not playing in the win over Richland in the first round of districts because of a torn muscle in the chest area and he had the flu. Porter said he was 50 percent against Bell City and hopes he'll be completely healthy for tonight's sectional game.
Braves players are looking forward to making another state title run after falling short last year when they lost 70-68 to Jefferson in a state semifinal contest.
The way the bracket is organized this year sets up a possible Scott County vs. Jefferson championship game if both teams make the final four and win their semifinals.
"It's a good feeling," Hatchett said about being back in the state playoffs. "It's all about heart. Everything you do has got to be about heart. You've got to go and get it. So what we're trying to do is go and get it -- whatever it takes. Coach is telling us it's right there -- we've just got to go and get it and we've got to work hard for it."