By Mike Fields
Kentucky High School Athletics Association
D.G. Sherrill never got to attend the Sweet 16 when he was a kid growing up in Caldwell County in far western Kentucky.
“My daddy believed when my basketball season was over, it was time for me to go to work,” he said. “So I was in a welding shop when everybody else was coming to watch basketball.”
Sherrill’s first trip to watch the state tournament was in 1992 at Freedom Hall, when he was starting his coaching career as an assistant to Terry Hayes at Dawson Springs.
He remembered his less-than-luxurious accommodations in Louisville.
“(Hayes) stayed at the Hyatt, and I was out in some motor inn. I think they gave us tickets and money, but he didn’t share of that with me,” Sherrill said with a laugh.
Sherrill was in a jovial, sentimental mood Sunday afternoon as he reminisced about his early days in coaching.
He had the best of reasons to reflect on his 25-year journey: he had just guided Bowling Green to its first state basketball title. The Purples led wire-to-wire Sunday in a 67-56 victory over Cooper in the 100th Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Sweet 16 before 11,346 fans in Rupp Arena.
“I’ve been to 25 state tournaments now. I’ve sat up in these sections many a night and thought, wouldn’t it be awesome to coach in one of those games.
“You grind and grind and grind, and so many coaches never get the opportunity to stand where I’m standing. I’m truly humbled by this experience.”
Bowling Green’s championship wasn’t a surprise to anybody. The Purples were pre-season No. 1 in the state, and they played up to the hype. They won 36 of 38 games, and closed with a 29-game winning streak.
They were led by three seniors – Terry Taylor, Kyran Jones and DeAngelo Wilson – who were part of Bowling Green’s state runner-up team to Owensboro in 2015, and the quarterfinal team that lost to eventual champ Paul Laurence Dunbar last year.
“Having Terry, Ky and Dee be part of those teams . . . I think experience paid huge dividends for us tonight,” Sherrill said.
Taylor came up huge all week. The 6-foot-6 swingman, who is headed to Austin Peay, had 16 points, 10 rebounds against Cooper. He totaled 82 points, 40 rebounds in four games and earned MVP honors.
Jones, Taylor’s 6-6 sidekick, had 42 points and 35 rebounds for the week.
Wilson, a 5-10 guard, totaled 50 points, 15 assists, 14 steals.
Zion Harmon, an unflappable eighth-grade point guard, had 69 points in four games.
Bowling Green has had an incredible run of sports success recently, including 5 state football titles in six years under Coach Kevin Wallace.
By winning the Sweet 16, they became only the second school in state history to win state football and basketball championships in the same school year. Trinity was the first to do it in 2011-12.
“I hope Kevin Wallace doesn’t get too jealous too soon,” Sherrill said with a smile.
Taylor said the Purples “wanted to go out with a bang. Our football team brings in trophy after trophy. We wanted basketball to have one, and we finally got it.”
Wilson, a standout wide receiver, has three state championship rings for football, and now he’ll get one for basketball.
“It’s just an unreal feeling,” Wilson said. “Out of all those in Kentucky who’ve played football and basketball, not a lot of people have won state titles in both. To be able to do it is really special.”
Winning the Sweet 16 is a tougher task than winning a football title. Football has six classes while basketball is an all-for-one deal.
“This is Kentucky basketball, and it can’t be more special than having one state champion,” Sherrill said. “To be able to come here and win it is an incredible feeling.”