By Terry Boehmker
HIGHLAND HEIGHTS, Ky. – Missing a potential game-winning shot at the end of the fourth quarter did not shake James Bolden’s confidence in a 9th Region semifinal game on Saturday at the Bank of Kentucky Center.
A few minutes later, the Holmes sophomore guard fired up a long 3-point shot that swished through the nets with 2.8 seconds left in overtime to give his team a 40-39 win over Cooper.
“Like I usually do, I just shot the ball with confidence,” Bolden said. “Every time I shoot the ball, I know it’s going in in my head.”
Bolden’s basket moved Holmes (30-2) into the 9th Region championship final for the sixth time in the last nine seasons. The Bulldogs will play Covington Catholic (28-6) in the title game at 6 p.m. Sunday.
Holmes won the regular-season game between those two teams, 71-60, but CovCath edged Holmes, 73-72, in the 35th District final last week. That game was decided on a last-second shot from beyond the half-court line by CovCath guard Nick Ruthsatz.
“They know everything about us and we know everything about them,” Holmes coach Jason Booher said of the rematch with CovCath. “It’s going to be a fun game to watch.”
What happened in the final seconds of the Holmes-Cooper semifinal game will be hard to top on the excitement scale.
After Cooper senior guard A.J. Collins made two free throws to give his team a 39-37 lead with 29 seconds left, Holmes senior guard Rashawn Coston drove to the basket and missed a shot.
As players from both teams wrestled for the rebound, whistles sounded and the officials ruled it a jump ball. The alternate possession arrow gave the ball back to Holmes, and that gave Bolden an opportunity to make up for the shot he missed at the end of the fourth quarter.
After running a few seconds off the clock, Bolden moved toward the basket and released a high-arching shot from well behind the top of the 3-point arch. The ball fell straight through the net.
“A big-time player has to knock down a shot with three seconds to go, and that’s what Bolden did,” coach Booher said. “It’s been fun watching him grow up as a player and hit shots like that.”
Cooper coach Tim Sullivan called a time out to set up one last play, but his team turned the ball over on a double-dribble call.
The Cooper players walked off the court with their heads down and Sullivan tried to pick up their spirits in the locker room.
“I just told our kids we didn’t lose this game,” Sullivan said. “We believed and we did everything we needed to do to try and win this game. The Bolden kid just made a play. I don’t know far (his shot) was. From where I was, it looked like it was 30 feet. Just an unbelievable play.”
Bolden finished with a game-high 18 points. He was the only double-figure scorer for the Bulldogs, who shot 31.7 percent (13 of 41) from the field.
Holmes senior forward Chris Englemon twisted his left ankle early in the game, but he still managed to get eight points and seven rebounds.
“Coach just told me to keep going hard and play through it, and I knew I had to,” Englemon said.
Cooper shot 38 percent (16 of 42) from the field and finished with a 32-27 edge in total rebounds. Senior forward Louis Maniacci had a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Collins finished with 13 points and seven rebounds.
Collins made a 3-pointer that tied, 34-34, with 1:10 left in the fourth quarter. Holmes ran the clock down to the last few seconds before Bolden put up a jump shot that bounced off the rim as the horn sounded.
In the final seconds of overtime, Bolden got the ball once again with the game on the line and made the game-winning shot.
“If they were over-playing me I was going to drive and get to the hole or dish it to my bigs (bigger teammates),” Bolden said. “But they backed off me and gave me enough space to look at the rim.”
HOLMES 9-8-11-6-6 – 40
COOPER 10-10-10-4-5 – 39
HOLMES (30-2): Bolden 6 3 18, Palmer 1 4 7, Housley 1 0 3, Chames 1 2 4, Englemon 4 0 8. Totals: 13 9 40.
COOPER (24-6): Morgan 1 0 2, McNeil 5 0 10, Collins 4 2 13, Maniacci 6 1 13,
Shelton 0 1 1. Totals: 16 4 39.
3-pointers: H–Bolden 3, Palmer, Housley. C–Collins 3.
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