By DOUG EADS, CJ Correspondent
Taylor Gover and Kody Johnson will arguably leave PC as the top two players to ever play for the Maroons.
This talented duo scored a combined 4,266 points for their outstanding prep careers, while leading PC to an overall won-loss record of 83-43 over that four-year span, which included four straight 47th District Tournament titles.
However, the one thing ‘The Dynamic Duo’ could never accomplish was to bring that elusive 12th Regional Tournament title back home to PC.
Facing a 24-6 Wayne County team in the opening round of the Boy’s 12th Regional Tournament last night, Johnson certainly saved his best for last — playing like an absolute beast — in leading Pulaski County with a game-high 28 points.
However, the Cards rallied by ending the game on a 5-0 run over the final :58 of the contest, ending PC’s season with a 23-7 record, gutting out a very hard-fought, 57-54 victory over the Maroons.
Pulaski County had one final shot to try to send the game into overtime, and got a great look at the basket.
Having to go the length of the floor with just :07.2 remaining in the game, Pulaski got a wide open three-pointer out of the corner from Taylor Gover, but the ball bounced off the rim, and Wayne County had bounced PC out of the tournament for the second time in the past three seasons.
“I’m taking full responsibility for this one — it’s no kid’s fault,” stated a very dejected Al Gover in the PC dressing room immediately following the game.
“It’s the coach’s fault, and I’m taking the full blame for this one, and if anybody wants to point a finger at anybody, then you need to point it at me,” added coach Gover.
Early on, this was a nip and tuck affair — which would be a sign of things to come.
And, another sign of things to come was the fact that Wayne County had no answer defensively for Johnson.
Johnson led PC with 11 first half points, helping the Maroons out to a slim, 25-24 lead at the intermission
In the third quarter however, the PC senior simply went off on the Cards.
Johnson ignited an 8-0 PC run to begin the second half, giving Pulaski County its largest lead of the night — 33-24 midway through the third period.
During that spurt, the senior forward made a couple of nice moves inside for baskets, and then had two nice assists to Sean Ross, who also scored four points during that mini-run.
However, as would be the case all night, Wayne County would answer right back.
A Dagan Shelton trey trimmed the deficit to 33-27, and then seven straight points from Corey Stearns put the Cards back out in front of Pulaski 34-33 late in the frame.
Another basket from Johnson put the Maroons back out in front at 35-34, and then another bucket by Johnson gave PC a 36-34 lead through three quarters of play.
“Kody tried to will us there in the fourth quarter — he stepped up and really played well,” pointed out Gover.
“He was trying to will us, and he did everything he could do,” added the PC coach. “When we needed big buckets, he made big buckets. It just came down to a couple of turnovers and a couple of missed free throws. We made a little run there in the third quarter and got a little bit of a cushion, and then we lost our focus defensively on a couple of trips, and you can’t do that in a regional tournament.”
The game see-sawed back and fourth in the fourth quarter, but Pulaski withstood every Wayne County rally, and simply put, had this game in hand, had the Maroons have been able to cash in at the free throw line.
Pulaski County was an abysmal one of seven from the charity stripe for the game, while Wayne County made six of eight free throws.
In a three-point game, that was the difference in the ballgame.
Still, despite the free throw woes, Pulaski County had its chances for a victory.
Johnson scored on back to back trips late in the game — both times breaking a tie and putting his club into the lead.
His last bucket came with just over a minute left in regulation, that gave PC a 54-52 lead — the Maroons last lead of the contest.
Then, the Maroons got the turnover they needed, and with :58 left in the game, Tyler Goins went to the free throw line for two shots.
Goins bricked both attempts, and on the next trip down the floor, Wayne County’s Jason Perkins made the Maroons pay big-time, by draining a trey out of the left corner, putting the Cards out in front of PC at 55-54.
The Maroons then called a timeout with :32 left, to set up for a final play.
However, Wayne County came up with a steal, and PC fouled Perkins with :07.2 remaining, and he went to the charity stripe and calmly sank both ends of the one and one to put the Cards up by a 57-54 margin.
That’s when Gover called another timeout, and set up a final play — which ended up being a wide open look from deep out of the corner by Taylor Gover which would have knotted up this affair.
The shot did not fall, and for the second time in as many years, the Maroons were bounced out of the 12th Regional Tournament in the opening round with another gut-wrenching setback.
“We got what we wanted on that final play,” stated coach Gover. “We had Taylor popping up on one side and Kody (Johnson) popping up on the other side. It was a good look and it just didn’t go down for us — I guess that’s the way it goes sometimes.”
“We didn’t shoot well tonight — we just didn’t make our free throws,” said Gover. “The referees didn’t beat us tonight, but Taylor Gover got hammered a lot tonight, and he has all year, and we can’t get a call, and that’s aggravated me all year. It’s frustrating — the referees didn’t beat us, but on a couple of trips to the basket tonight, Taylor got hammered and there was no call.”
With the loss, PC finished its season with a 23-7 record.
Tonight, the final two first round games of the tournament will be played beginning at 6 p.m., when Southwestern will take on Mercer County.
In tonight’s second game, the Somerset Briar Jumpers will face Boyle County.
WC — 10 14 12 21 — 57
PC — 13 12 13 16 — 54
WAYNE CO. — Stearns 16, Perkins 13, Shelton 13, P. Woods 8, Blevins 7.
PULASKI CO. — Johnson 28, Ross 12, Gover 10, Goins 3, Burton 1.