By STEVE CORNELIUS, CJ Sports Editor
There was pushing. There was shoving. Elbows were thrown. Angry looks were given. And maybe even some harsh words were spurted out of their mouths.
These are all just some of the ordinary happenings in any heated sports rivalry.
When the competition is fierce and both teams want to win so badly, tempers and emotions sometimes become part of the process.
All these things happened on Friday night at the Pulaski County High School gymnasium, because, after all, the Southwestern and Pulaski boys basketball games have become an intense rivalry.
Amidst all the scuffle and clamor between the county programs – two players stand out as titular dignitaries of the ‘county school rivalry’.
Pulaski County High School senior Taylor Gover and Southwestern High School junior David Kapinga stood out in last night’s game for their competitiveness, and more importantly, their grace under fire.
The two talented point guards are probably the two most competitive and fiercest rivals on the basketball court, but their mutual respect for each other stood out for everyone – in the packed Pulaski gym – to see.
Several times in the heat of the moment, they accidently knocked each other down. However afterwards, they were always the first to help each other up off the hardwood floor.
Both sacrificed of themselves for the betterment of their team, and when it came time for them to take matters in their own hands, both Gover and Kapinga were able to take the ball to the basket.
In the box score, Gover led the way with 26 points, while Kapinga led his Warriors with 18 points. Defensively, Kapinga created havoc with his crafty hands which resulted in several defensive takeaways – two back-to-back steals from Gover in the late stages of the game.
Granted there have always been a court full of great basketball players in this local county school rivalry over the years, but Gover and Kapinga gives this rivalry an escalation of honor.
Forget the fact that Pulaski has dominated the head-to-head match-ups between the two county school programs, by winning the last eight straight meetings – including last night’s – over the last four years.
However in post-season play, it has been Southwestern who has gotten the better of the Maroons, as the Warriors claimed the program’s first-ever regional championship last season and advanced all the way to the 12th Region Tournament Championship game in 2011.
This season, Pulaski and Southwestern are considered the two best teams in the 12th Region. Pulaski is looking for thier first state tournament appearance since 1992 and post Dave Fraley, while Southwestern would like to make back-to-back trips to Rupp Arena.
All this will play out over the next couple of months with the two county schools scheduled to meet up again on February 8, at the Wigwam, and hopefully again in the 12th Region Tournament.
And no matter how it turns out or which team wins or which team is declared the best, one thing is for certain – Taylor Gover and David Kapinga will always be exemplary characters in this heated rivalry.