By DOUG EADS, CJ Correspondent
When the dust had settled at Casey County High School on Saturday night, the drive for five was very much alive.
For the fifth consecutive season, the road to a 47th District championship runs straight through Pulaski County High School.
Last night against the homestanding Rebels, Al Gover and the Maroons won their fifth consecutive district crown, by holding back a furious second half rally by Casey County, topping the Rebels by a 72-63 margin.
Sean Ross and Blake Burton paced PC with 19 points each, while Peyton Gover added 16 points, on a night when the Maroons made it five district crowns in a row.
“We have won the district five years in a row, and it all started with Taylor (Gover), Kody (Johnson), and (Tyler) Goins, and Tyler Jenkins when he was a senior,” pointed out coach Gover after last night’s win.
“Tyler Jenkins kind of willed that team to win it that year, and he kind of carried that team on his back a little bit, and carried those puppies around that year,” added the PC coach. “Taylor and Kody’s sophomore, junior, and senior years, people kind of said they were the best team and they were expected to win it. This team, I don’t think people were saying that a whole lot about us, especially coming down the stretch. We had some tough games down at the end of the regular season, but to our kids credit they’ve re-grouped, and they fought hard and practiced hard. We’ve went through some adversity, but to their credit, they stepped up and kept fighting, and as a coach that’s all you can ask from them.”
Last night, a fight was exactly what Pulaski County had on its hands, thanks to a pesky and determined Casey County team feeding off of its home crowd.
Despite the fact the Rebels never led in the game, Maze Stallworth’s club came back from a double-digit halftime deficit to make a game out of this one before the Maroons pulled away in the end.
PC led Casey County after one period of play at 15-14, and in the second frame, neither team could seemingly throw it in the ocean.
In fact, the only points scored in the second quarter came from the free throw line, before Peyton Gover ignited a mini-spurt for the Maroons.
Gover’s basket with just 2:49 remaining in the opening half of play was the first field goal by either squad in the second stanza, and that hoop gave the Maroons a 21-16 advantage over the Rebels.
That field goal also started a 9-0 run by PC over the next 31 seconds in the game.
A steal and layup by Burton extended the margin out to 23-16, while the next trip down, a putback by Hagan Elmore — who played great off the Pulaski County bench — made it 25-16 in favor of the Maroons.
After a Casey County turnover, Riley Hall got in on the act by draining PC’s first trey of the night, giving his club its first double digit lead of the contest — 26-16 — forcing a Casey County timeout.
“Our kids stepped up tonight and they accepted the challenge there in the second half when Casey started battling its way back,” pointed out Gover.
“We made some mistakes there in the second half — it didn’t seem like we could stand up or catch the ball there for a while,” remarked the PC coach. “We re-grouped and got it together in time to pull this one out. This is a big win for us and our program, and our kids fought hard to earn this game.”
Leading Casey County by a 33-22 margin at the intermission, the Maroons looked to be in great shape, but the Rebels — just as they did in the opening round upset win over Somerset — made a big-time charge in the second half.
Freshman guard Jacob Smith scored all eight of his points after halftime, while Baylen Hill tallied 12 of his team-high 19 points in the second half as well.
As a result, Casey County roared back attempting to fight its way off the mat, trailing the Maroons by only one point — 48-47 — through three quarters of play.
In the final stanza, Casey County had two opportunities to take its first lead of the contest, but Pulaski County’s defense held the Rebels at bay, and that’s when eighth grader Hagan Elmore made arguably the biggest shot of the night for PC moments later.
With his club leading the Rebels by a 54-49 margin, and with momentum clearly on the side of the Rebels, Elmore hit PC’s second and final three-pointer of the contest, and that three gave Gover and crew some breathing room, extending the lead out to 57-49 with just over five minutes left to play.
From that point on, the closest Casey County got to the Maroons was five points, as PC made its free throws down the stretch, escaping Liberty with a hard-fought, 72-63 win over Casey County and a fifth consecutive district championship.
Now, it’s on to this week’s regional tourney for Gover’s club, as the Boy’s 12th Regional Tournament is slated to tip off at Pulaski County High School on Wednesday night.
As for coach Gover, he says his team is ready to tip things off and let the chips fall where they may.
“We consider ourselves fortunate to be there, and it’s an opportunity for us to play again on our home floor,” pointed out Gover.
“When it’s tournament time, who knows what’s going to happen,” added the Pulaski County coach. “We’re going to prepare, and we’ll see who we’re going to draw tomorrow. We’re going to come out and fight — I promise you that. We’re not going to lay down for anybody.”
Look for details and the bracket for the 2014 Boy’s 12th Regional Tournament in Tuesday’s edition.
Members of the 47th District’s All-Season Team that were announced at the conclusion of last night’s game were as follows: Sam Pensol and Josh Mason from Rockcastle County, Jacob Smith and Collin Miller from Casey County, Ryan Dishman and Tyler Dishman from Somerset, while the Pulaski County trio of Sean Ross, Blake Burton, and Peyton Gover rounded out the team.
PC — 15 18 15 24 — 72
CC — 14 8 25 16 — 63
Pulaski Co. — Ross 19, Burton 19, Gover 16, Hall 9, Elmore 5, Clark 4.
Casey Co. — Hill 19, Miller 12, Davis 10, Smith 8, Hayes 6, Brown 5, Clark 3.