Barren’s defense stifles Monroe in district tourney opener, 54-40

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SCOTTSVILLE, Ky. – Monroe County had all the momentum at the end of the first quarter of Monday night’s game against Barren County in the first round of the 15th District Tournament as Grayson Rich drilled a 3-pointer at the horn to give the Falcons a 18-15 lead after one.

But the Trojan defense stepped up and held the Falcons to just 22 points total in the final three quarters, and Barren County used a 10-0 run before halftime and a strong start to the third quarter to pull away for a 54-40 victory. 

“That’s what we’ve hung our hat on all year: defense and rebounding,” Barren County coach Warren Cunningham said. “The big key is we guarded. We didn’t allow any easy shots and we made them work for it.”

Barren County (22-8) held Monroe County to just four points in the second quarter and kept Rich in check after the Falcon senior was in rhythm in the first quarter. 

“I thought Gavin Withrow did a really good job on Rich,” Cunningham said. “But we switch a lot, and it’s a lot of other guys. I thought we did a really good job throughout the game—not just on (Rich)—but on not giving (Monroe) any clean looks.” 

The Trojans opened up a 39-27 lead after Jacob Shaw buried a triple from the right wing with 2:49 left in the third quarter, and Barren also ended the frame with momentum. After Falcon senior Jholdi Brooks hit a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 41-34 with 38 seconds left, Aden Nyekan drew a foul and knocked down a pair of free throws with 4.4 seconds left to give Barren a 43-34 lead going into the fourth. 

Monroe County (10-18) cut the deficit to 43-35 before back-to-back buckets by Gavin Withrow pushed the Trojan lead back to 12. From there, the Trojans were able to break the Falcon press and take care of the basketball to seal the victory as Barren ultimately outscored Monroe 39-22 after the opening quarter. 

“A lot of it you have to give (Barren) credit defensively,” Monroe County coach Ashley Geralds said. “They got into us. We knew they were going to play man the whole game. We got the shots we wanted still, but they just didn’t fall.”

Rich led Monroe with 16 points while Brooks added 11 for the Falcons, who shot just 30 percent from the field in the second half. 

Aden Nyekan led Barren to victory with a double-double of 17 points and 12 rebounds while Will Bandy added 12 and drilled a pair of 3-pointers. Tyler Bush and Jacob Shaw added six for the Trojans, and Mason Griggs tallied five. Griggs—along with Taye Poynter, Ryan Shirley, and Cody Lane—provided a boost off the bench in the second quarter for Barren. 

“I thought the second quarter was the key,” Cunnigham said. “One of our bigger strengths all years has been numbers: the fact that we have guys coming off the bench that could very well start. We don’t lose a lot with the guys we bring off the bench.”

Barren County will now play either Allen County-Scottsville or Glasgow for the district title on Friday night, but the Trojans also have a monkey off their back. After suffering losses to archrival Glasgow in the first round of the district tournament the past two years and missing out on the region tournament, the Trojans punched their ticket to Diddle Arena for the first time since 2017 with the victory over the Falcons. 

“My freshman year we lost a heartbreaker in three overtimes and last year we also lost in overtime,” Withrow said. “We were ready to get back. It’s been too long.”

Barren County 54, Monroe County 40

BCHS (54): Aden Nyekan 17, Will Bandy 12, Tyler Bush 6, Jacob Shaw 6, Mason Griggs 5, Gavin Withrow 4, Ryan Shirley 2, Taye Poynter 2. Totals: 19-42 13-22 54. 3-point goals: 3 (Bandy 2, Shaw 1). Rebounds: 32 (Nyekan 12). Turnovers: 6. 

MCHS (40): Grayson Rich 16, Jholdi Brooks 11, Kale Hagan 8, John Harlin 2, Wade Thompson 2, Curtis Petett 1. Totals: 13-38 9-15 40. 3-point goals: 5 (Rich 3, Brooks 2). Rebounds: 24 (Hagan 7). Turnovers: 11. 

Barren Co.    15       14       14       11       –54 

Monroe Co. 18       4          12       6          –40 

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