– Ensworth boys, Brentwood Academy girls claim titles
BGA, Moran celebrate DII state championship
By HAROLD HUGGINS
Len McKnatt got a feeling his team might turn into something special as far back as last summer.
The Battle Ground Academy coach took his team to basketball camps over summer break to places like Lipscomb, Ole Miss and Memphis University School.
Playing lights-out competition, particularly in the MUS camp, battle tested his team and it all came together in a state championship run, capped by a 62-49 win over region rival Franklin Road Academy Saturday and a spectacular 31-3 record. It was BGA’s third state basketball crown as delirious students stormed onto the court to celebrate. Tournament MVP Nathan Moran high-fived fans in the end zone.
It marked the 20th anniversary of the Wildcats’ state title run in 1994, which was the second of BGA’s back-to-back Class A crowns. Only the 34-0 Brandon Wood led team in 1993 won more games.
“We played teams like White Station (ranked No. 5 in the USA Today prep poll) and Melrose at MUS and hung in there with most of them,” McKnatt said. “One of the reasons we played at Lipscomb was that was the site of the state tournament. After those camps, I felt going into the season and with nine seniors, we had a chance to really be good.”
The Lipscomb camp choice proved wise as the Wildcats made themselves at home there as they blew past both ECS and FRA in the semis and finals, scoring 122 points in the process on the same Allen Arena floor.
It didn’t start out that way as FRA flew out to a 15-4 lead. Moran, BGA’s leading scorer, hit just 2-of-13 (1-of-6 from three) in the first half and appeared to be pressing too much. McKnatt took him out a couple times, hoping to get him refocused and calmed down.
He definitely got refocused. Moran finished with 17 points, five rebounds, four assists and five steals, and was named tournament MVP. BGA finished 4-0 vs. FRA this season.
“I started out missing a lot of shots,” Moran said. “But my teammates had faith in me, we all were pulling the rope together. (Ryan Coach) Doug Bontrager told us after one of our games told us we had a chance to be really special if we kept playing together.”
“We knew we were capable,” said senior center Andrew Cowie (who is headed to Indiana) who had 13 points and four rebounds. “We played for each other, played together, this team was like family.”
McKnatt got a bit emotional as he related how much former BGA Coach Gary Smith meant to him.
“He was like a father figure to me,” McKnett said, tearing up. “He led BGA to two championships and I have so much respect for him. I have some great assistant coaches, who help keep me under control, and that’s not easy. And I am so impressed with FRA and how good a coach John Pierce is.”
Other Wildcat seniors played well as they did all season long. Zac Wracher had a strong defensive game, and Daniel Brown had five assists. Sophomore Webster Terrell, the heir apparent to take Moran’s place as point guard next season, scored 11 points in relief of Moran.
FRA gained some consolation as center Rob Marberry was named DII-A Mr. Basketball. Prior to his presentation, the 6-5 center, a Western Kentucky signee, finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in the finals and was named all-tournament. Continue Reading