By DOUG EADS, CJ Correspondent
After falling in their season opener against Bryan Station last Friday night, there was a little more vigor, a little more urgency, and a little more hustle shown by the Pulaski County Maroons on Tuesday night at The PC Gym.
Al Gover’s club — ranked preseason number one in the 12th Region as well as being ranked in the Top 20 in the state of Kentucky in almost every preseason poll imaginable — came home on Tuesday evening and took out some frustration on visiting McCreary Central.
Taylor Gover led a balanced Pulaski County scoring attack with a game-high 20 points, while Kody Johnson tallied 14 of his 16 points after the intermission, but it was at the defensive end where the Maroons took out the Raiders.
Pulaski gained control in this affair in the opening half of play, by limiting Robert Jones’ club to only six made field goals, while forcing the Raiders into 16 first-half turnovers.
That defensive effort by PC gave Al Gover and club a very comfortable 45-18 lead at the half, in a game where the Maroons would cruise from there for an impressive, 79-52 victory.
“For a couple of days after the Bryan Station game, we had a couple of very good practices,” stated coach Gover, after his club evened its record to 1-1 on the year.
“The kids have been focused and have been intense, and that’s all you can ask from them,” continued the Maroons head coach. “How do you respond after adversity? They came back strong for a couple of days at practice, and I think that’s a really good sign of a team that really wants to get to and meet expectations that are on us this year. I thought our first half defense was pretty good.”
Indeed, it was at the defensive end where the Maroons threw and landed the knockout punch over McCreary Central in the first half of Tuesday’s night’s game.
The Raiders didn’t make their first shot of the contest until the 4:21 mark of the first quarter of play, but before that shot finally went in, the Maroons were already off and running with a 10-1 advantage right out of the gate.
Senior guard Taylor Gover scored 15 of his game-high 20 points in the first half of play, and with the Raiders seemingly unable to buy a bucket, PC found itself rolling in this one, leading the Raiders by a 45-18 margin at the end of the first half.
A large reason for McCreary’s shooting woes in the first half and the 16 turnovers was due to a Pulaski County full court press that really hounded the Raiders guards, forcing them into several of those miscues in the opening half of play.
While he was glad to see that kind of defensive intensity from his squad in the first half in the full court, Gover pointed out his club still has some work to do at the defensive end of the floor, despite Tuesday’s brilliant performance.
“We’ve still got some work to do in our full court press, as far as weak-side rotation,” said Gover. “We’re still not quite there just yet.”
“I feel good about our depth, and that’s one reason why we can maybe press a little more than we did last year,” Gover added. “We’ve still not had our football kids in that long. Mason Helton is still trying to find his way a little bit — he’s still a little rusty. Riley Hall is playing pretty good for not being in for as long as he has, and (Tyler) Goins is the same way. They’re all still trying to find their way a little bit.”
McCreary Central did have one flurry in this game, and that came at the start of the second half, when the Raiders nailed six treys in the third quarter of play.
Three of those came in the first 1:09 of the second half when Josh Gregory drained two from downtown and Kyle Tucker made one of his own, cutting the PC lead down to 20 points, 47-27.
Gover called a timeout at that juncture and whatever the PC coach said he certainly got his point across to his team.
The Maroons came out of that stoppage of play and put this issue to rest once and for all, going on a 10-1 run, which culminated in a Taylor Gover three giving the Maroons a 57-28 lead.
“You’re coming off a loss, and with the expectations on our team for this year, we certainly didn’t want to get started by losing our first two games out of the gate, so this was a big game for us,” pointed out Gover.
“Had we lost this one and fell to 0-2, then I’m sure people would have began doubting us and saying we were over-rated and things like that,” Gover continued. “So, it was good for our guys to come out tonight and play as well as they did and get this win.”
Pulaski County will return to action tomorrow night with their district opener, as the Maroons will host the 3-1 Casey County Rebels.
That game will tip off approximately 20 minutes after the conclusion of the Lady Maroons game against Casey County in the district opener for both of those club as well.
The girl’s game will tip off tomorrow night from The PC Gym beginning at 6 p.m.
MC — 8 10 21 13 — 52
PC — 22 23 18 16 — 79
MCCREARY CENT. — Spradlin 11, Gregory 9, Tucker 8, T. Strunk 8, Dople 4, Duncan 4, Whitehead 3, Ross 2, R. Strunk 2, Longmire 1.
PULASKI CO. — Gover 20, Johnson 16, Hall 9, Ross 9, Goins 9, Burton 7, Laign 4, Helton 3, Smith 2.