Jim Mashek column/Familiarity breeding contempt as Buttry, BGHS overpower Greenwood 81-68


Warren Central High School’s players found a corner of the gym and staked a claim.

The Bowling Green boys basketball team got to the WCHS facility and the Tim Riley Court for one of the most anticipated high school games South Central Kentucky had seen for some time.

There was some nervous energy, to be sure.

It was a packed house, I’m guessing about 3,500 strong.

Greenwood arrived at courtside while the Lady Gators’ team was tangling with South in a knockout game of the KHSAA 14th District Tournament. The Gators, Bowling Green and Warren Central are all ranked in the Associated Press’ Top 10, and remember, for basketball, there are no classifications.

Kentucky and Delaware, one of the smallest states in the country, are the Last of the Mohicans. No classifications, not for basketball. Even Indiana, with the lore of tiny Milan High School, or Hickory in the memorable Gene Hickman flick “Hoosiers,” now has four or five state champions, with the schools broken into classifications.

For a more level playing field.

On February 14, Valentine’s Day, Warren Central delivered a blow through Greenwood’s collective heart, rolling to a 70-48 victory on its home floor to create a three-way tie atop the KHSAA’s 14th District, consisting of five teams.

That meant that two of them — between fifth-ranked Warren Central, at 21-3, along with No. 8 Bowling Green (then 23-5) and 10th-ranked Greenwood (24-4) — would play in a knockout game, on the third night of the 14th District Tournament.


Sheer pressure for adolescents who pursue the game year-round, kids who put in the time hoping to get to play in Lexington’s Rupp Arena when the calendar turns to March.

Consequently, after the game, Greenwood coach Will McCoy joined Warren Central counterpart Will Unseld and Bowling Green’s DG Sherrill for a series of coin flips to determine the tournament seedings.


Everybody had held serve, among the three of them, winning on their own home court.

As it turned out, Warren Central got the No. 1 seed, in addition to the home-court advantage, already established.

And Bowling Green got paired with crosstown rival Greenwood, with one of them to advance to next week’s KHSAA Fourth Region Tournament at E.A. Diddle Arena.

The other, well, you already know.

Bowling Green took the court against the Gators on Wednesday night, after the Greenwood girls dropped a tough one, a 41-39 defeat to scrappy South Warren that sidelined standout guard Leia Trinh and the Lady Gators until the 2022-23 season.

The Purples, a Sweet Sixteen squad last year, returned precious little experience from last year’s 24-3 team, which lost in quarterfinal play to Ballard.

So Sherrill turned to Turner Buttry, a starter for each of the last two BGHS teams and an Eastern Kentucky University signee, with a mission.

Take this team under your arm and run with it.

That’s what has happened on Rockingham Avenue, at the perpetual construction site known as Bowling Green High School.

Buttry guided the Purples past Greenwood on Wednesday night, sending Bowling Green to the championship game. In reality, however, he willed the Purples into the season’s third dimension, the 4th Region tussle at Diddle.

Bowling Green started the game with a blitzkrieg on Wednesday night, scoring the game’s first 13 points. Relentless. Active, around the perimeter. Poised to strike.

The Purples came at Greenwood in waves, pushing the tempo and hitting some early shots. MJ Wardlow was on fire in the game’s opening moments, and Buttry and the other BGHS guards kept it coming. They never let up.

They won 81-68.

Greenwood, which finished the season 24-5, was a worthy opponent. Coach Will McCoy’s Gators climbed back into the game, and made the Purples earn it. Bowling Green never trailed, improving to 24-5 on the season itself. And it was probably Buttry’s most memorable moment as the Purples’ playmaker.

“This team has worked its (butt) off, they really have,” Buttry said before leaving the gymnasium. “We lost so many seniors from last year’s team, some people said I might transfer, or something like that … There was a lot of talk on Twitter.

“Coach Sherrill, he’s always on me. He’s going to encourage you, all the time, but he isn’t going to go easy on you. He told me what he expected from me, this year, as a leader … The guys (his teammates) have let me lead them, they’ve let me challenge them.”

Maybe that’s why Buttry was so emotional over the course of the fourth quarter, intensity etched across his face as the Purples kept Greenwood at arm’s length. He shared a couple over-the-top moments with the BGHS student section, he looked his teammates in the eye in the huddle, and he earned the admiration of those teammates.

“Turner plays with a tremendous amount of spirit, and energy,” Sherrill said. “Sometimes, we’ve had to ‘pull him back’ a little bit. He’s a fiery guy. He gets the most out of his teammates. MJ Wardlow, he’s a Division I guard. Somebody’s going to figure that out eventually.”

His 30 points in Wednesday night’s game … well, that had a lot to do with it, too.

Buttry could have used some camping gear, for all the time he spent at the free-throw line, including some lonely detatched foul shots after a technical foul against Greenwood in the fourth quarter.

Sherrill molded a young team of hungry role players around Buttry, guys like 6-foot shooting guard Curtis Lin, and 6-foot-3 backup forward Bradley Gurley, who’s also headed to Eastern Kentucky on a football scholarship. Lin, Gurley and Buttry comprise the Purples’ senior class.

Wardlow finished with 14 points and played with his usual verve and energy. Mason Ritter, the Purples’ 6-foot-7 sophomore center, might be the team’s most improved player. He scored 13 points and helped keep Aaron Brown, the Gators’ gifted front-line player, in check.

But it was Lin, who hit a couple critical shots and finished with 10 points himself, who offered this assessment of Buttry, a candidate for Kentucky’s prestigious “Mr. Basketball” award.

Said Lin:

“Turner’s the heart and soul of the team. We feed off his drive, his energy, all the time.”

DG Sherrill, a colorful figure who can appreciate the subtleties of the game, admits it hasn’t always been easy.

“We did a pretty good job of containing them, defensively, doing well against their shooters. With Cade (Stinnett, the Gators’ driven, multi-talented senior swingman), he knows what it’s going to take. We got that lead … and we just had to keep them in front of us. I thought the defensive matchups worked for us.

“I’m really proud of this team. It’s a good group of kids.”ii

Greenwood coach Will McCoy has a veteran team, but the Gators couldn’t get back to the regional tournament, in large part because of the flip of a coin or two. Cade Stinnett had to overcome a high-ankle sprain on January 21, when the Gators gutted out a 72-71 victory over BGHS on their home floor.

Greenwood has a talented bench, a tough-minded point guard in senior Brak Stinnett and hard-working role players like Jox Buchanon and Mason Thornhill. The Gators put together an 11-game winning streak late in the season, including the hard-fought wins over Bowling Green and Warren Central.

McCoy has a special relationship with his players, and while the environment at Warren Central was a little on the rowdy side, you sense that deep down the teams respect one another.

A little talkin’, a little preenin’ never changes that.

Cade Stinnett, a thoughtful young man who HAS TO BE playing somewhere in college basketball next season, maybe at the mid-major level, led the Gators with 25 points.

“They just came out and hit some shots,” Stinnett said. “We didn’t get rattled, but we couldn’t get any stops at the beginning, when we needed them.”

Will McCoy spent a little extra time with his playrs in the Greenwood locker room when it was over, before trying to put the season into some kind of perspective.

The Gators came excrutiatingly close. They could taste it.

“I’m proud of my kids, for always carrying themselves with class,” McCoy said. “It wasn’t our night. It’s a heckuva legacy, that these guys have left for this program.”

It’s the beauty of high school sports, when you think about it.