Cordia guard Emmanuel Owootoah scored 15 points to go with nine assists and six steals as the Lions took a 75-62 win over Letcher Central Tuesday in front of a crowd that included Morehead State coach Sean Woods and a scout from Florida State University.
The two teams remained even for much of the first half, trading baskets as Cordia’s defense was unable to prevent the Cougars from keeping pace offensively. Cordia took a one-point lead after the first quarter, and the teams played even in the second period, allowing the Lions to go into halftime maintaining a minute advantage.
Cordia coach Rodrick Rhodes said his team simply wasn’t executing well against Letcher Central’s zone defense in the first half, and that’s an area in which he’ll be looking for improvement as the season winds down and the post season approaches.
“They’re a very good team, well coached, and do a good job in that match-up zone,” Rhodes said of Letcher Central. “I thought in the first half that we were running our stuff, but we weren’t executing, and we have to do a better job of executing what we want done.”
The third quarter began much the same as the previous two, with Letcher Central keeping pace with the Lions, and also beginning to apply more of their full court press. Midway through the period, however, Cordia began to pick up the pace, and by the end of the frame had built a 54-46 lead.
Cordia gained their first double-digit lead of the evening as Owootoah nailed a triple at the 6:30 mark in the fourth quarter. Senior Dondre Warren scored two of his 17 points on a lay-up a little over a minute later to extend the lead to 13. From there, Cordia was able to keep the Cougars at bay, going on to pick up the 75-62 win.
Though Cordia wasn’t firing on all cylinders early on, Rhodes compared Tuesday’s game to a boxing match as his players continued to press the attack into the second half, eventually scoring the win.
“We believe every game is a boxing match,” Rhodes said. “We just want to throw jabs to the body, and eventually we’re going to get their hands to come down and we’ll get that knockout punch. We workout like that, we practice like that, and condition like that. So we know our conditioning is going to kick in at some point.”
Cordia, a team that cracked the WYMT Mountain Top 10 this week at No. 8, improved to 12-7 overall, and 4-1 since senior transfers Owootoah and Marlon King were ruled eligible to play earlier this month.
Rhodes noted following the Lions’ win over June Buchanan on Jan. 11, the first that the two were able to play with the team, that it would be a few games before his players would look as sharp on the floor as they are capable. And now, after five games, he thinks his team is getting there.
“We’re forming into shape, and it’s a really good time of the season because we’ve got the rest of January and the whole month of February to really get where we need to go,” he said.
Owootoah, meanwhile, is continuing to receive attention from several Division I basketball programs. Along with Coach Woods and a Florida State representative attending the Letcher Center game, word leaked out on Tuesday that staff at the University of Kentucky contacted Cordia, while a Tennessee scout attended the Lions’ game against Hazard on Jan. 16. Several other programs have reportedly expressed interest in Owootoah, including UCLA and N.C. State.
Cordia stats vs. Letcher Central: Dondre Warren: 17 points, 13 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block, 1 assist; Emmanuel Owootoah: 15 points, 6 steals, 9 assists; Marlon King: 15 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal, 1 assist; Matt Neace: 10 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists; Austin Combs: 6 points, 1 rebound; A.J. Tagaloa: 5 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 4 assists; Zack Owens: 5 points; A.J. Chisolm: 2 points, 1 steal, 2 assists; Marquis Nowell: 1 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 assist