On what was most likely his final game on his home court, Shaun Cooke may have possibly saved his best for last.
Cooke scored a career high 37 points and helped Point Borough defeat Weequahic High School 64-60 en route to the Central Jersey Group 2 quarterfinals.
Cooke, a senior, is the all-time school leader for points scored.
The Panthers started very sluggishly early on in the contest and fell behind the Indians 12-5 about midway through the first quarter.
As soon as Weequahic stretched their lead to seven points, Panthers Head Coach Kevin Hynes called timeout and offered one simple message to his team.
“I told the guys that we need to box out, simple as that,” said Hynes. “They had the size and the athleticism, and we knew going into the game that if we could limit their second and third opportunities that we would have a good chance to win.”
From that point, the star of the game seized control for the Panthers. Cooke netted all 13 of the team's points in the first quarter, that helped Point Borough cut the deficit to only one point at the end of the quarter.
“I was feeling it early on in warm ups and I was thinking to myself that tonight is going to be one of those nights for me,” said Cooke.
In the second quarter, Cooke’s hot hand continued, but he was also able to incorporate his teammates down low into the equation.
On a beautiful feed from Cooke, Alex Lorenz netted home a traditional 3- point play and capped a 15-5 Panthers run in the second quarter. Point Borough, despite the slow start, was able to turn a one-point deficit in the first quarter into a six point halftime lead.
“Even though I had the hot hand early, I had no doubt that my teammates were going to come through for us today,” said Cooke. “I knew that they were going to do the job.”
Although the Panthers led this one by 10 points at the end of three quarters, the pesky Weequahic squad went on a 6-0 run to start the fourth quarter, and cut the Panthers deficit to only 4 points, before Cooke was able to finish what he started.
The senior point guard nailed a 3-pointer with 6:00 left to play which stretched the Panthers lead back up to 7 and gave Point Borough a much needed sigh of relief throughout the remainder of the period.
“Good players make a coach look good,” said Hynes. “They were making a run, but when there was a play to be made, Shaun made it. It’s what he’s done for me his entire career here.”
With a little less than one minute to play and with the game’s verdict sealed, Coach Hynes subbed out Cooke to receive one last enormous ovation for the home crowd, which turned out in big numbers for the NJSIAA 1st Round matchup.
Many of the Point Borough students began chanting Shaun’s name as he headed for the bench, a feeling that will last a lifetime.
“It was a great feeling to leave the court on this note,” said Cooke. “There was no way, I was losing my last game on this court and I’m very grateful for all the great support I’ve had from the fans in the community over the past few years especially on a night like tonight.”
Up next for the Panthers is a quarterfinals date with top-seeded Carteret High School.
“Carteret is a team we played last year, so I have a little bit of familiarity with how they run their stuff,” said Hynes. “We’ll work hard tomorrow in practice and go in there on Thursday and give them our best shot.”