By MICHAEL CHILDERS, CJ Correspondent
It was simple.
Pulaski County showed up ready to play. Southwestern didn’t.
The homestanding Pulaski County Maroons jumped out to an early lead over the visiting Southwestern Warriors and never relinquished it, as they came away with an 82-68 victory last night at PC Gym.
With the victory over the Warriors, Pulaski ran their winning streak to eight straight games over their cross-town rival, Southwestern. Since Al Gover took over as the Maroons coach in the 2009-2010 season, he is 8-1 against the Warriors.
Though it’s always nice to get a win against a rival, Gover understands that it’s just another regular season win.
“It always feels good to win, no matter who you are playing,” began Gover, who saw his club up their record to 14-3 with the victory. “When you’re playing a rival, it feels good to win, but we don’t hang our hat on winning cross-town rival games. We know what our goal is this year and we’re focused on that.”
“It’s a regular season win that we will enjoy, but then we’ve got to come in and practice and try to get better at some things that we didn’t do very well.”
Early in the first period, both teams were knotted up at 7-7. That all would change, however, as the Maroons would go an 11-0 run to take an 18-7 lead over Southwestern.
Kody Johnson broke the 7-7 tie with a three-pointer, putting the Maroons ahead, 10-7. Thanks to Johnson’s trifecta, Pulaski would never trail again for the remainder of the evening.
Blake Burton, Sean Ross, Taylor Gover, and Johnson, would all score two points each in the remainder of the run, allowing Pulaski to take an 11-point lead 2:47 left to play in the opening quarter of hoops action.
Southwestern’s David Kapinga went two-of-two from the line to cut the score to single digits at 18-9. With 1:27 left to play in the opening frame, Isaiah Collier knocked down his second trey of the quarter to lessen the Maroon lead to 18-12.
After one quarter of play, Pulaski led the Warriors by seven points at 20-13.
The second period would belong to the Maroons, particularly Gover and Johnson, who both combined for 22 of the Maroons’ 27 second quarter points. Johnson scored 14 points in the eight-minute quarter, while Gover chimed in with eight.
In the later part of the second period, Pulaski went on another 11-0 run, paced by the pair of Gover and Johnson. Thanks to the late-quarter run, the Maroons went into the locker room at halftime with a 20-point, 47-27 lead over Southwestern.
The Warriors came out of the second half with a lot more intensity than the opening half of action. In the third quarter, Southwestern outscored the Maroons by an 18-13 margin. By outscoring Pulaski by five points in the third stanza, the Warriors were able to cut the lead to 15 points, as the score stood at 60-45.
Southwestern, once again, outscored the Maroons in the fourth and final frame, this time by a total of 23-22. However, it was too little, too late for the boys in blue and orange, as the Maroons went on to win by a 14-point margin.
It was the tale of two halves for the Warriors, according to coach Steve Wright.
“I was really disappointed in our effort - it was probably the worst we have played all year,” Wright stated. “We didn’t get much done in the first half, but it was a little better in the second half. We should have been playing the way we did in the second half in the first half. We didn’t bring it early on, and I don’t know why. That’s their responsibility to be ready to play, and it’s my responsibility to be sure that they’re ready to play.”
“We got our tail handed it us tonight because Pulaski was a lot better than us.”
The Maroons senior ‘Big Three’ all hit double figures in the 14-point win, led by Gover’s 26 points. Johnson chimed in 23 points, while Tyler Goins finished with 15 points and a team-high six rebounds.
With Spencer Laign in the line-up due to illness, Ross stepped in and finished with nine points for the Maroons.
“Since the last Southwestern game, Sean’s got more minutes because he’s playing so well,” said the Maroon hoops coach. “He’s scoring some points, rebounding the ball, and playing more aggressive. We really like the way he is playing. He is a big factor for us, along with some of the other kids coming off of the bench.”
Southwestern had to deal without a player of their own, as Justin Edwards sat out with a knee injury. Not having Edwards in the line-up made a difference in the ballgame.
“I think (not having Justin) had an affect on our confidence level,” said Wright. “That shows a lot of immaturity on our teams’ part, because that should not have been a factor at all and we let it be.”
All five starters for Southwestern hit double figures in the loss, led by Kapinga’s 18 points and a game-high seven rebounds. Adam Isaacs scored ten points in the fourth quarter to finish the game with 15 points. Collier had 11 points, while Dylan Gaskin and Justin Schulz scored 10 points each.
Just like their last meeting, free-throws were aplenty, as both clubs combined to shoot 68 free-throws. Southwestern went 21 of 31 on the night, while the Maroons went 28 of 37 from the charity stripe.
No matter the outcome, Gover was glad to see a huge crowd pack the PC Gym bleachers last night.
“It’s good to see the community come out and support the teams - the crowd was great,” concluded the Pulaski coach. “That’s the way high school basketball should be. It reminds you of the 80’s, when people really gathered into the gyms to watch games.”
Southwestern, who fell to 13-5 on the year with the loss, will return to action on Tuesday night, when they will host the Russell County Lakers at 8 p.m. at the Wigwam.
The Maroons, who have now won nine straight games in a row, will return to action on Tuesday evening as well, when they will travel to Liberty to take on Casey County in a 47th District showdown at 8 p.m.
SW - 13 14 18 23 - 68
PC - 20 27 13 22 - 82
SOUTHWESTERN (13-5): Kapinga 18, Isaacs 15, Collier 11, Schulz 10, Gaskin 10, Hansford 4.
PULASKI COUNTY (14-3): Gover 26, Johnson 23, Goins 15, Ross 9, Hall 4, Burton 4, Lorman 1.