BOWLING GREEN, Ohio -- Bay High School (20-6) used superior outside shooting in the second half and an 18-4 advantage from the charity stripe to pull a big 67-59 upset over Beechcroft at the Stroh Center on the campus of Bowling Green University on Thursday night. The upset ended a great season for the Cougars (25-2) who had won their second city championship of all-time and eighth district title in school history.
Beechcroft came out of the gate slow and fell behind 6-0 early. The Cougars seemed to be struggling without guard Teon Jennings, who missed the game with a broken toe he sustained during the district final victory over Bishop Hartley.
"We missed Teon tonight," added Coach Humphrey Simmons. "He is our heart and soul."
Bay star RJ Sunahara took command in the post early with four quick points before the Cougars would go on an 11-0 run before the end of the first quarter.
Sunahara would make a closing fiveifoot jumper to cut the Cougar lead to 11-8 at the end of the first quarter. He scored six of the eight the Rockets points, and Naelle Simmons scored five points in the first quarter to lead Beechcroft.
The Cougars seemed to gather themselves early in the second quarter after Datrey Long hit a pullup, and Naelle Simmons made a layup. Combined with an Elijah Bishop dunk and Elijah Hairston put back, the Cougar lead jumped to 19-8 with 5:02 left in the quarter.
Rocket sixth man Francis Sherman began to make a difference on the glass for Bay scoring four points, to go with two treys and two layups by his teammates to tie the score at 24 at halftime.
It seemed like the Cougars had still played well considering all-district players Jelani Simmons and Therron Jennings had been held scoreless for the half.
In retrospect, the third quarter seemed to be the one that the wheels fell off for Beechcroft. The Rockets came out and outscored the Cougars behind 3-of-3 shooting on treys, giving the Rockets a 21-11 advantage in the quarter and a 45-35 lead going into the final eight minutes. Unbelievably, Jelani Simmons was still scoreless after 24 minutes, and Jennings layup to close the quarter gave him his first two points.
Early in the fourth quarter, a Sherman trey would put the Rockets up 48-35 for their biggest lead of the game.
The lead put the Cougars in a position where they either had to create turnovers with their pressure or foul to keep time from running off the clock. The Rockers got continued scrappy play from forward Max Showalter, Sherman and their big man Sunahara. They were able to hold off the Cougars as they tried desperately to roar back from the 13 point deficit, cutting the lead to five points in many of the possessions but getting no closer. A tomahawk dunk by Sunahara at the one minute mark seemed to be the knockout punch emotionally by Bay.
What the Cougars couldn't overcome was losing the bench scoring battle by thirteen points, making four less three point goals and 14 less free throws for the game.
While rebounding and team was a virtual standoff with Bay getting a 43-41 advantage on the boards. This was due to an amazing effort by Sunahara who snagged a game-high 19 rebounds for the Rockets, while the Cougars were led by Bishop"s solid 11 board effort.
The Central District Division II player of the year, Jelani Simmons, didn't score his first points of the game until the 3:33 mark in the fourth quarter. He would score nine points down the stretch to go with Jennings seven fourth quarter points, but they would only outscore the Rockets 24-22 in the period due to the free throw shooting margin by Bay.
Long and Bishop would lead the Cougars with 14 points, with Long adding seven assists to zero turnovers. However, the all- district point guard who is also a star receiver in football would only hit 6-of-21 field goals and 1-of-8 treys.
Jelani Simmons would end his career with a nine-point, five-rebound and three-assist effort. Jennings, who wore his brothers jersey to honor him, finished with nine points and eight rebounds.
Bay star RJ Sunahara who is headed to Fairmont State finished with 18 points.
The Cougars made no excuses in the end.
"The shots just weren't falling tonight," said Simmons who shot 3-of-16 from the floor and 1-of-5 from deep.
Few who have seen Beechcroft and their amazing run all year could argue with his sentiments. The Cougars who had to battle foul trouble most of the game, were forced to go deeper into their bench than they had all season. The result seemed to be that the Cougars seemed to struggle to find the chemistry that had come so naturally all season.
The Cougars who have rode their talented staff of Simmons, Randy Clarkson, Maurice Hale and Chris Bannerman all season were not out-coached by any means. They simply were outplayed on Thursday and struggled to overcome the loss of Teon Jennings who had given the Cougars incredible clutch play ever since he produced in MVP performance in the City Championship win over Eastmoor.
The upset ended the most successful season ever accomplished by a Beechcroft Cougar team.
"These guys are my brothers," said Long in the postgame news conference when asked if he would miss his teammates after this year.