The McLean County High School boys’ basketball team made program history last week by securing its first trip to the 3rd Region Tournament championship game. The Cougars won 54-35 over Meade County on March 2 in the first round of the tournament at the Owensboro Sportscenter and advanced to the semifinals against Owensboro High School last Saturday. McLean County dominated the Red Devils en route to a 56-40 victory.
The Cougars fired off several 3-pointers against the Green Wave. Bryce Durbin opened up scoring with an open shot from outside the arc. Jaxon Floyd drove in with a one-handed twisting layup before Brady Dame assisted Evan Ward on a 3-pointer. Cruz Lee then assisted Brodie Cline for a 3-pointer. Ward blocked a shot, and Lee scooped it up on the run for a coast-to-coast trip to the rim. Carter Riley gave an assist to Ward for another 3-pointer to end the first quarter with McLean up 16-6.
The Cougar defense was on fire in the second period, and they capitalized on every opportunity. Floyd knocked away a pass, and Riley tapped it right back to him as he went on a quick sprint to the other basket. Dame swiped a rebound out to Durbin, who picked it up and took it home. Durbin then assisted Floyd with a shot from well beyond the NBA arc at the buzzer to put McLean out front 23-11 at the break.
The Cougars kept the momentum in the second half. Dame assisted Durbin with another 3-pointer before Floyd went along the baseline for a basket. Dame gave an assist to Cline before driving in over several defenders for a basket. Lee swooped in for a steal at half-court and zipped down the court for a bucket while Meade simply watched. Lee then snuck in at the basket and took an assist from Dame. Riley snagged a pass on the run and gave a hook-shot assist to Cline at the basket. Ward blocked another shot, and Floyd batted the ball away from any Green Wave players, scooped it up on the run and laid it in for two points. McLean County scuffed up the paint with several more baskets to seal the 54-35 win.
Floyd led the Cougars with 15 points, five rebounds, four steals and an assist. Cline had 11 points, a rebound, an assist and a steal. Ward had eight points, seven boards and three blocks. Durbin also had eight points, three rebounds, an assist and a steal. Dame had six points, nine rebounds, five assists, two blocks and a steal. Lee also had six points and the same in rebounds, along with three assists and a steal. Riley had a rebound and made three assists. Clay Brawner grabbed a rebound.
“We played really well from start to finish,” said head coach Darren Lynam. “When you give a district winner, four times your size, only 35 points, it speaks well for the defense. (Meade) never really threatened us after we forged ahead early in the second quarter.”
The Red Devils put the first point on the board Saturday with a free throw, but it would be their only lead. Dame went low in the paint and under defenders to pop up at the basket, putting McLean out front. The Cougars were all over the ball and secured a 13-6 lead by the end of the first quarter.
McLean County continued to pound the glass in the second period while holding Owensboro to only a single basket. Several players put points on the board, as the Cougars stretched out for a 27-8 advantage at halftime.
McLean County kept its composure despite a rise in intensity, as the Devils were desperate to gain some ground in the second half. Owensboro was obviously rattled, as they opened by throwing the ball out of bounds and later threw up a couple air balls. The Cougars kept grinding away and never allowed the Devils to get their deficit below 10 as the game went to the free-throw line in the final minutes. Owensboro’s only chance was to foul and hope the Cougars missed, but that would not be the case. McLean County fans were on their feet as the Cougars hit 16 free throws in the final minutes to seal the 56-40 victory and punch their ticket to the championship game.
Dame had a double-double and led the Cougars with 20 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and a steal. Floyd had 12 points and three each in rebounds and assists. Lee had eight points and the same in boards along with an assist and a steal. Ward put up seven points and snagged six rebounds, along with a steal and an assist. Riley had six points and an assist. Cline had three points and two each in rebounds, steals and assists.
The win over Owensboro High School marks the 21st for the Cougars this season, the third-highest total in program history, falling just behind the 1984 and 2020 teams, who each won 22 games.
“We followed the game plan, and that is what it takes to beat a team of their caliber,” Lynam said. “Our defense was excellent. We knew they struggled with hitting the basket from the 3-point line and are extremely good at getting to the basket. We basically stacked all five guys in the lane for the most part and made them beat us from the outside, and they couldn’t do it!”
This win was a total team effort, according to Lynam.
“Dame and our other guards did a nice job in taking their time and not getting too rushed,” he said. “Our bench really stepped up with Riley and Brawner playing more. Lee and Cline helped take care of the offense out front all day. Floyd was tremendous again with his overall game.”
Lynam stated that this is really exciting for the community and shows again that “you don’t necessarily have to be a bigger school to compete with the bigger or more athletic schools in our region.”
McLean County advanced to the 3rd Region Tournament championship game against Muhlenberg County at the Sportscenter with the win over the Red Devils. It will be the fourth time the teams have faced off this season, with the Mustangs having won the previous matchups.