Libbey head coach, Leroy Bates, walked into the press interview room appearing worn and confused. He had just witnessed his Cowboys defeat a tenacious Eastmoor Academy team, 59-50, and for that he was grateful but he had no answers for why the game was so close.
“I’m just glad we came out on top,” said Bates. “We tried to take away Bumpus but no matter what we did the other guys on the team seemed to step up. “
The cause for Bates’ confusion was the relative ease with which the Cowboys began the game. For a long while in the opening quarter it looked like the Warriors might never score. Libbey held Eastmoor scoreless for nearly six minutes while scoring 10 points of their own but once the ice was broken on a three point basket by junior guard Alex Coleman the once dominate Cowboys and Warriors played to a near stalemate.
“We jumped on them right away, kept them down for the most part of that first half, first quarter, then, all of a sudden, you look up and we’re only six, seven, eight points up,” said Bates.
A significant part of the Cowboys’ success was their ability to keep the Warriors’ leading scorer and floor leader, Antonio Bumpus, from being a factor. Bumpus finished the first half without scoring a single point and only one rebound. More significantly, Bumpus also had three personal fouls. Not a good scenario for a team trailing at halftime, 28-20.
In the early stages of the third quarter, the Cowboys again looked like a team destined to win a state title. As they patiently worked their offense, the Cowboys forced the Warriors into making mistakes on both ends of the court and by the midway mark of the quarter the Cowboys enjoyed a seemingly comfortable lead, 35-20. However, the Warriors again came surging back.
Through a combination of Libbey turnovers, poor shot selection and careless fouls the Warriors chiseled away at the Cowboy lead. By the end of the quarter Libbey’s lead had shrunk to only seven,39-32 and the Eastmoor team was beginning to play with more confidence.
The fourth quarter saw the teams exchange baskets as the Cowboys maintained a six to seven point lead but, with just over five minutes remaining, Libbey’s outstanding senior, William Buford, suddenly picked up his fourth foul. At the time, the Cowboy were still leading by six, 44-38, but Buford’s foul situation raised an air of doubt.
“We couldn’t afford to take him (Buford) out,” said coach Bates. “Brad Burton had turned his ankle, and so, we didn’t want to try putting him back in the game. We just felt that we would ride with Will and see how far it takes us. And to his credit, he didn’t back down.”
The Cowboys rode out the storm the last five minutes of the game. The Warriors were able to pull within three, 47-44, but Libbey regrouped and, behind Buford’s leadership, held on for the victory and a date in the regional finals Saturday afternoon against Lexington.
In usual fashion, the Cowboys were led offensively by William Buford. Buford led all scorers with 26 points. Teammate Julius Wells added 10.
Only one Eastmoor player, sophomore Doug Thorpe, reached double figures. Thorpe had 11 points.
“We just kept playing hard,” said Libbey’s William Buford. “If you lose you go home and I didn’t want to go home.”