CHALLENGE ACCEPTED/Bowling Green’s 3-pointer barrage submarines South Warren, 82-38, in KHSAA 14th District opener


D.G. Sherrill and his Bowling Green High School boys basketball team took care of some business and quickly convened in the Purples’ locker room.

The veteran BGHS coach understands his team has some limitations, namely, a singular presence of size near the basket.

Mason Ritter, the 6-foot-8 Purples senior, is certainly an equalizer on the boards. But he’s surrounded by a quartet of quick, sharp-shooting guards who can make things happen at the drop of a hat.

In this case, a drop of the Spartans.

Senior BGHS guard M.J. Wardlow and his kid brother, Jace Wardlow, quickly found their range from the 3-point line, and teammates Deuce Bailey and Braylon Banks wasted little time following suit, sending the Purples to an impressive 82-38 victory over crosstown rival South Warren High School on Friday night at the BGHS Arena.

Bowling Green, ranked in virtually every statewide poll this season, earned its 12th victory against four defeats heading into Saturday night’s home game against Henderson County in the German American Bank Classic. The Purples opened KHSAA 14th District play with a resounding victory, and they’ll play host to Fourth Region opponent Franklin-Simpson (7-6 overall) in another girls/boys doubleheader on Tuesday night at the BGHS Arena.

“We challenge our guys,” Sherrill said when it was over. “We’ve got a big 6-8 kid in the middle, Mason Ritter, and basically four 6-foot guards around him. They’re quick, good players, but we want them to rebound, defend. We want to get them to get layups, defensive stops. Guard off the press.

“That’s really our focus … We’ll definitely take (the victory).”

Deuce Bailey, the BGHS junior who guided the Purples to the KHSAA Class 5A state championship in football last month — as a record-setting quarterback — has a similar role with the Bowling Green boys basketball team.

Bailey often plays at the point, but Wardlow and Banks can step in at that position, too. Bailey did it all against the Spartans, with his shooting and passing, but he’s also one of Sherrill’s seasoned guards who has played a critical role with the team since his freshman year.

“Deuce is probably one of the best three or four players in the Fourth Region,” Sherrill said.

It was just another day at the office for Bailey, who is being recruited extensively in football while making steady improvement on the basketball court. Braylon Banks had some impressive 3-pointers in the first half, including a trey to close the first quarter and extend the Purples’ lead to 27-11 before the horn sounded.

“We really just wanted to set the tone from the start,” Banks said.

Bowling Green did just that, raining 3’s on the Spartans and making plenty of trips to the free-throw line. Banks led the Purples with 18 points, while the Wardlow brothers, M.J. and Jace, each finished with 17 points. Bailey added 12 points, while Ritter, who’s headed for the Ivy League and Columbia University, had eight points on the night.

“We’ve got a lot of speed and quickness, so we can outrun some teams,” Bailey said. “Practice has definitely picked up (after joining the team late because of football), and I think we’re coming together at the right time.”

D.G. Sherrill said Banks has had some injury concerns in the first five weeks of the season, but the slender 6-foot senior has settled into his role in his final season with the Purples.

“We’re more efficient when Braylon’s on the floor,” Sherrill said. “He’s worked his tail off, started every game for us last year.

“When you get defensive rebounds, that allows you to play fast. You can limit their shot opportunities, and we were able to play in transition. We’re a much better basketball team when we play in transition.”

The Purples came closer than anyone to derailing Warren Central High School’s drive to a KHSAA Sweet 16 state championship last season, finishing the season at 26-9 overall. The Dragons knocked off Bowling Green in the KHSAA 4th Region championship game, 52-50, with then-sophomore guard Luke Islett getting a good look at a potential game-winning 3 at the horn before Warren Central survived.

Sherrill took Bowling Green to the KHSAA Sweet Sixteen in 2021, when they reached the quarterfinals, and he has plenty of talent to work with as the Purples approach the teeth of their 2023-24 schedule.

Bryce Button, the Spartans’ starting quarterback in football and Deuce Bailey’s counterpart at South for more than half the school year, led his team with 9 points, while teammate Drew Hudson finished with seven.

BOWLING GREEN GIRLS 40, SOUTH WARREN 25 — The Lady Purples relied on a consistent defensive effort to turn back South Warren, and Bowling Green was without its starting point guard, scrappy 5-foot-1 junior NaTaya Wardlow.

“NaTaya was out sick tonight,” BGHS coach Calvin Head said, “Honestly, I thought the game was very slow. NaTaya pushes the pace for us. She’s a difference maker, a good on-ball defender.”

BGHS guard/forward Katy Smiley, a 6-foot junior, is the team’s leading scorer (12 points per game) but often filled in for Wardlow on Friday night. The Lady Purples’ fast break seemed to be affected by Wardlow’s absence, but Smiley hit some critical 3-point baskets to lead her team to victory.

Smiley led the Lady Purples with 17 points on the night, while teammate NaTaijia Alexander finished with seven.

Bowling Green improved to 8-3, and 1-0 in KHSAA 14th District play, heading into today’s game against Henderson County in the German American Bank Classic at the BGHS Arena. The Lady Purples will travel to play unbeaten Franklin-Simpson (13-0) on Tuesday night, while South Warren (5-8 overall, 0-1 in 14th District play) will play host to Edmonson County (12-2 overall, out of the Third Region) that night in the Spartans’ gym.

South Warren sophomore guard McLaine Hudson scored 20 of her team’s 25 points on the night.