By DOUG EADS, CJ Correspondent
After outscoring Casey County in the two regular season meetings this year by a combined total of 123-54, the Pulaski County Maroons figured to be a prohibitive favorite over the Rebels going into last night’s first round of the Boy’s 47th District Tournament.
The Rebels however had other ideas.
To Casey County’s credit, the Rebels came out on Tuesday night at Somerset’s Briar Patch and gave PC its best shot early on, taking the lead on PC on a number of occasions in the opening period of play.
However, any shot Darry Burkett’s club had of pulling off a major upset was thrown away — literally.
Casey County was guilty of 26 turnovers for the game, while PC blistered the nets by hitting 11 shots from behind the three-point line.
Taylor Gover led the way with a game-high 28 points, while his running mate — Kody Johnson — led the Maroons with four three-point baskets adding 20 points, and as a result, it was Al Gover’s club punching its ticket to next week’s 12th Regional Tournament with a convincing, 94-66 victory over the Rebels.
So coach Gover, how would you assess your team’s post-season opener?
“Ugly or pretty — it really doesn’t matter to me right now,” stated the PC coach after his club’s win.
“It’s a win and we move on and we’ll take it,” continued the PC coach. “We’ll go home and go back to work tomorrow, and get ready no matter who we will play on Friday.”
The Maroons came into Tuesday night’s contest as the three-time defending 47th District champion, but Casey County came out and took things right at the Maroons early on, showing no intimidation whatsoever.
The game saw five lead changes and two ties early on, but thanks to a 14-0 run by the Maroons midway through the first stanza, Pulaski led Casey County by double digits at 27-17 at the end of the first period.
And, the Maroons were able to get that 10-point cushion by getting things done at both ends of the court.
Johnson scored 12 of his 20 points in the first period, on the strength of going a perfect four from four from behind the three-point line.
Defensively, PC forced the Rebels into eight turnovers over the game’s first eight minutes, helping Gover and company finally take the lead for good.
However, thanks to a 11-2 Casey County run to begin the second quarter, the Rebels whittled the PC lead down to a single point — 29-28 — but the Maroons would then respond with a run of their own.
Taylor Gover’s three-point basket extended the margin to 32-28, and that trey kick-started a 14-4 Pulaski County Maroon, helping the Maroons extend the margin out to double figures, leading Casey County at the intermission 43-32.
“Hat’s off to Casey County, because I think they came out ready to play,” pointed out Gover. “They had a good plan and they did not back down, and they weren’t intimidated. They took it to us early, and I thought they played a pretty good first half altogether.”
The 14-4 run by the Maroons enabled PC to finally break open a tight game giving the Maroons that double digit lead at the end of the first half — a double digit lead they would never relinquish.
And, it was a total team effort.
Starters Tyler Goins and Blake Burton each tallied nine points in the win, while sophomore Sean Ross continued his outstanding play off the Pulaski bench, scoring 11 of his 13 points in the second half.
“Our kids hung in there and they battled,” stated the PC coach. “We came out in the second half with a little more fire and a little more intensity, and kind of put it away like we should.”
Indeed, Casey County got no closer than the halftime deficit of 11 points in the second half.
Hampering the Rebel effort meanwhile were those turnovers.
Through three quarters of play, Casey County was guilty of 24 turnovers, having five more miscues than made baskets.
Against a quality opponent like PC, that stat alone did in the Rebels upset bid in last night’s contest.
“The district tournament is totally different than anything else, so you can throw out anything done in the regular season,” stated Gover.
“Casey County didn’t play us like they did in the regular season — they were much better tonight,” continued the Maroon coach. “Hat’s off to them and coach (Darry) Burkett.”
With the win, the 22-6 Maroons advanced to Friday night’s championship game of the district tourney, where they will meet the winner of tonight’s other first round game, which will feature Rockcastle County taking on the homestanding Somerset Briar Jumpers.
CC — 17 15 17 17 — 66
PC — 27 16 23 28 — 94
CASEY CO. — Smith 21, Hill 19, Leigh 16, Scott 10.
PULASKI CO. — Gover 28, Johnson 20, Ross 13, Goins 9, Burton 9, Laign 5, Lorman 4, Hall 4, Gregory 2.