The Edgewood Cougars went into Friday night’s regular-season finale against Mount Healthy hoping to capture their first conference boys basketball championship since the 2006-2007 season and just the second in program history.
The Fighting Owls wasted no time puncturing that dream.
Mount Healthy, the defending Southwest Ohio Conference champion, raced to a 17-0 lead and led by as many as 26 points on its way to a 66-41 win on Ron Kash Court at Edgewood.
»PHOTOS: Owls top Cougars in SWOC showdown
“We came out a little tight,” Cougars coach John Thomas said. “I think we had energy, but there were times when we were open, but we weren’t ready to shoot when we caught the ball, and when we did take a shot, it wasn’t with a lot of confidence. We just didn’t play very well. It’s hard to play from behind.”
Mount Healthy (16-5, 11-1) placed four players in double figures, led by sophomore Kollin Tolbert’s 17 points, while handing the Cougars their worst loss of the season.
“They’re really good,” Thomas said of the Owls. “Mount Healthy is a really good basketball team that played very well. They’re playing with confidence.”
Senior John Shepherd finished with 18 as the only Cougar to reach double figures on Senior Night. Edgewood, which went into the game leading the SWOC with 143 made 3-pointers for an average of 6.8 per game, sank one on Friday.
“That’s not a bad basketball team,” Thomas said, gesturing with his head toward the Edgewood locker room. “They just played a bad game. Unfortunately, it was on a night where we were playing for a championship in front of a nice crowd.”
The teams went into the game tied for the SWOC lead with 10-1 records. Edgewood, which finished 5-18 last season, had extended its winning streak to three with a non-conference win at Franklin on Tuesday, the same night Mount Healthy lost a non-conference game at Western Hills.
“If you bet in November that we would be playing in the final game of the season for a conference championship, you would’ve won a lot of money,” Thomas said.
The Cougars committed six turnovers during the Owls’ 17-0 game-opening run, snapped on Shepherd’s layup with 52 seconds left in the quarter. Sophomore Caleb Allen scored five points in the second quarter, but Mount Healthy – which beat Edgewood by 10 on January 10 at Mount Healthy – still was able to lead by as many as 23 points before halftime.
“They beat us bad on the boards in the first game,” Thomas pointed out. “We emphasized rebounding, and our guys went to the glass, but a couple of them forget to stay back and (the Owls) got a couple of leakouts.”
Shepherd scored 11 of Edgewood’s 17 points in the third quarter.
The Cougars, who are seeded 15th in the Division I district tournament, are scheduled to play Harrison in the first round at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 22 at Hamilton High School. The Cougars beat the Wildcats twice this season, 56-39 on Dec. 17 at home and 43-37 on Jan. 21 at Harrison.
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