Before every game, the Drexel boys’ basketball team pumps up by shouting “right here, right now!”
And that team mantra came to life last week.
For the second year in a row, the Bobcats will be competing for a Class 1 state championship.
Drexel took down Pilot Grove 67-48 in sectional play at Harrisonville, then rolled past Fair Play 84-67 in quarterfinals March 2 at Clinton.
“The boys came out ready to go from the start and won this game with their defense,” Drexel head coach Dennis Bolton said. “The rotation on the ball screens, the talking to each other and the blocking out were the best they have been all year. These are the things that we will need to do at state.”
In quarterfinals, Drexel started things off with a 25-17 lead at the end of the first quarter, leading 47-31 at halftime. Both teams scored 21 points in the third quarter, but the Bobcats still had a 68-52 advantage. Drexel outscored Fair Play 16-15 in the fourth quarter to seal the victory.
The Bobcats were led in scoring by Trevor Cooley with 25 points, Javyn Johnston with 24 points and CJ Bolton with 22 points. Cody Russell added nine points and Trevor Stewart had four points.
Johnston scored his 1,000th career point with his first basket of the game.
“The coaches could not be more proud of this group of boys,” Bolton said. “They accepted the challenge early on and have worked very hard to get to this point. Now it is time, right here, right now, to go finish this journey.”
Drexel, 29-1, faced Eminence in semifinals March 7. A victory will send the Bobcats to the championship game against the winner of the Meadville vs. Stanberry semifinal at 6:50 p.m. Saturday, March 9.
In the sectional game, the score was tied 11-11 at the end of the first quarter, but the Bobcats amped up their offense to lead 32-21 at halftime. Pilot Grove returned the favor in the third quarter, outscoring Drexel 17-10 to close the gap to 42-38.
“We were a little surprised at first,” Johnston said. “We haven’t been playing good competition lately and when you come up against a good team, it catches you off guard. We recuperated well and had a big run before halftime and that really helped.”
The Bobcats made some mental mistakes in the first half with some bad passes and traveling calls, things they normally don’t do.
“This is the first time that we have faced any competition at all in a month,” Cooley said. “It takes a lot on your body, mentally, to come out and play somebody...It was hard to make the connection. They were a lot better than I thought they would be.”
In the fourth quarter, after a basket from Cooley, Pilot Grove sunk a three-pointer to make the score 44-40. Drexel responded with a free throw from Bolton and a three-pointer from Johnston. But Pilot Grove came back with a basket and free throw to make the score 48-43.
The Bobcats went on a 12-0 run next to lead 60-43. After a three-pointer from Pilot Grove, Drexel’s Russell hit two free throws. Pilot Grove sunk a shot, but Cooley and Bolton both hit a free throw and Johnston put in three free throws for the final margin of victory.
“It was our work effort,” Cooley said. “And the fact that we have been there before. We went out there not panicked, knowing we have been in this situation before and knowing what we have to do. We had four scorers on the court at the same time. Being able to reverse the ball to four people that they had to come out on, that really helped.”
Drexel was led in scoring by Johnston with 26 points and Bolton with 20 points. Cooley had 11 points and Russell added six. Stewart and Daniel Roberts both added two points.