Off to Park Center to the 2nd seeded Pirates take on a natural rival that they should play more in 7th seed Robbinsdale Cooper. Outstanding Walking Taco done in a plastic salad tin. As much as the concept of the bag is important, having the tin does make it much easier to deal with. Late entry for the crowd but we do have the always loud Park Center student section.
Quinton Hooker in the lineup but he missed the last 2 days of school due to illness so we'll see how he does. His coast to coast dash and lefty finish puts Park Center up 7-4 at the 15:10 mark. Then Cooper goes on a big run. Rashad Vaughn with the nice left to right spin for 2 and another layup. He adds 2 free throws after a Leroy Taylor 3. The total run is 17-0 in 5:45. 21-7 Hawks at the 9:10 mark. Vaughn banks in a 3 as everything seems to be for the Hawks on this night. He adds 2 more free throws to keep the lead at 14. Vaughn then drives for 2 and finds backup center Curtis Shelby for 2 more. Taylor makes both ends of the bonus and the lead is 35-19 at the 3:54 mark. The Pirates counter with an 11-2 run before the half. Treyton Daniels with 4 free throws to start the run, adds 1 of 2 more from the foul line vs the 3-2 zone and an easy 2 handed follow dunk to end the run just before the half. 39-30 Cooper at the break.
Hooker held down in the 1st half and at times he looked winded. But he came out ready to play in the 2nd half. He makes back to back jumpers to cut the lead to 7. Then Vaughn to Shelby again for a layup. That's after an extra pass nets a wide open 3 for the Hawks. 48-36 Cooper with 15:19 to play as they take the Momentum Killer timeout. Daniels with a free throw and a putback. Then Hooker for 3 and a Josh Matthews 3 point play. Park Center right back in the game down 50-45 with 12:49 left after a 9-2 run. Cooper goes 1-3 from the charity stripe before Josh Matthews makes a pair of freebies to cut the lead to 4.
Then Vaughn and Hooker go after it. Vaughn spins for 2, Hooker puts back his own miss, Vaughn slices his way to the basket for 2. Good body control to avoid the charge. Hooker to Daniels for a layup cutting down the lane after hanging in the air on the baseline under the basket. 55-51 Cooper with 10:27 left. Vaughn with a tip and another Taylor 3 to end a 7-2 spurt. 62-53 Hawks with 7:25 left. Pirates won't go away. Daniels for 2, Hooker with a pair of free throws. Then Hooker fouled off the ball while Isaiah McKay was in the act of shooting a 3. He doesn't get it off before the whistle but he was in the act so score that 3 and Hooker will shoot the 1 and 1. Strange play but upon further review that is the correct rules interpretation. He makes 1 of those 2 free throws to cut the Hawks lead to 64-61 with 5:14 left. Daniels with another putback and the lead is down to 2. Cooper turns it over and Park Center can't convert going the other way with a chance to tie. 4:34 left 65-63 Cooper lead and Hooker goes down with cramps but he'll stay in and gut it out. Vaughn to Shelby to the kick out to Billy Kellogg for the left corner 3. McKay with another 3 to counter that. Shelby with a putback and the lead is back to 4. 70-66 Hawks 2:55 left. That was the last gasp from the Pirates. Josh Matthews banks in a 3 with 42 seconds left to cut the margin to 5. Cooper pulls the upset 79-69.
For Park Center, they finish the season at 18-9. They were definitely better than I expected. Its a roster with no seniors, plenty of athletes, enough size, a star in Hooker and a nice complementary piece in Daniels. No reason why the Pirates can't be at least a 2 seed next season. Treyton Daniels leads with 21 points. Quinton Hooker 18 points and a handful of assists. Josh Matthews 16 points.
For Cooper, they advance to face 3 seed Champlin Park next Tuesday at Rogers and I'll be there for that. That's a rematch of a Dec 29th meeting at Bethel that Champlin Park won 62-52 (I covered that game here). They improve to 12-15. Rashad Vaughn leads all scorers with 24 points. He added 10 rebounds and at least 3 assists on 8-17 shooting, 7-8 from the foul line. Not just the Vaughn show tonight as there was great balance. The Hawks add 4 other players in double figures. Center Curtis Shelby off the bench with 14, Eric Brown and Leroy Taylor 12 each and Billy Kellogg with 11 off the bench. 25-0 in bench points for the Hawks.