The Boy’s 12th Regional Tournament tipped off last night at The PC Gym, and even though the homestanding Maroons opened tourney play in Friday’s first game on their home court, it was arch-rival Southwestern that owned the paint in the third meeting this season between the two clubs.
Justin Edwards and Dylan Gaskin threw a formidable, one-two punch at Pulaski County, and the Maroons could not find a suitable answer to Southwestern’s inside duo down on the blocks.
Edwards and Gaskin combined for 33 points and 18 rebounds, on a night when the Warriors won the battle of the boards by a comfortable, 38-25 margin.
As a result, it was Steve Wright’s club punching its ticket into Monday night’s semi finals, while ending PC’s season at 17-13 on the year, with a lopsided, 86-57 victory over the Maroons.
“Our inside game is something that we’ve obviously worked on all year, and there’s times that it has paid dividends for us, and there have been times that it hasn’t,” stated a very happy coach Wright after Friday night’s victory.
“Our guys offensively executed really well, and really did a good job of doing what we wanted to do,” continued the Southwestern coach. “We played with a lot of confidence tonight, and maybe some of the work that we did earlier in the year is beginning to pay off for us now.”
Edwards led the way for Southwestern with a game-high 25 points, while Gaskin pulled down a game-best 13 boards.
As a result, the Warriors jumped on top of PC early and never looked back, leading this game from wire to wire.
Hunter Cromer actually led Southwestern in the first half with 13 points, followed by Edwards with 11, as Wright and company methodically built up a double digit lead over the Maroons, leading PC by a 38-28 margin at the break.
PC — despite its struggles against the Warriors on the backboard — had managed to stay within striking distance of Southwestern early, but a Danny Butt drive straight down the lane just before the horn sounded ending the first half gave his club that 10-point bulge at the break.
PC would never get the deficit any closer coming out of halftime, on a night when the Maroons simply didn’t have an answer for the Warriors.
“I thought in the first quarter we gave them some easy baskets, and then we didn’t hit the basket the way we wanted to start the game,” lamented PC head coach Al Gover immediately following the contest.
“The shot at the end of the half that we let them score hurt, because if we could have held them there, we would have only been down eight and that wouldn’t have been all that bad,” pointed out the Maroon coach. “And, we couldn’t sustain their size and strength, and I thought at times they overwhelmed us physically, especially later on in the game.”
Already leading Pulaski by that 10-point margin at the intermission, Southwestern threw and landed the knockout punch early in the third period, and it was Edwards leading the way for the orange and blue.
The Warrior senior tallied 10 of his 25 points in a decisive third quarter — a third stanza that saw the Warriors build up the lead to as much as 21 points.
And, much like the Warriors did at the end of the first half with Butt’s driving layup just before the horn sounded, Southwestern threw another dagger at PC to end the third frame.
The Warriors other senior — forward Robbie Miller — drained a trey just before the third quarter ended, which gave Southwestern a commanding, 62-40 lead over the Maroons headed into the fourth period of play.
“Sometimes I’m not sure if our bench gets its due,” stated Wright. “We got some very good minutes tonight from Robbie (Miller) and Danny (Butt), which has really accepted his role on our team, as well as Logan (Dykes). I thought all three of those guys really helped us tonight, and we really don’t miss much when those guys are in there.”
Southwestern built its lead up to as much as 34 points in the third period before both coaches pulled their starters with about four minutes left in the game.
Riley Hall — a lone bright spot for PC in the loss — played arguably his best game of the season, leading the Maroons with 17 points, but it would not be enough.
Peyton Gover added 14 points for the Maroons and Sean Ross tallied 11, before going out of the game in the fourth period with an injury.
By that time however, Southwestern already had this one well in hand and was on its way to Monday’s semi finals.
“I’m really proud of our season — I really am,” stated Gover. “To be ranked as low as we were in the preseason — we were really down there — with just three or four teams down below us, 17 wins is not bad.”
“We had a chance to maybe win a couple more, and we won our fifth straight district championship this year,” added the PC coach. “I don’t think anybody at the beginning of the year expected us to win another district championship, so I’m very proud of my team from that aspect.”
With last night’s victory, Southwestern improved to 24-5 on the season and will move on to Monday night’s semi final round, where the Warriors will run up against a very tough Lincoln County squad.
The Patriots punched their ticket to the semi finals with last night’s impressive, 76-50 win over East Jessamine in the nightcap.
With that win, Jeff Jackson’s club ran its winning streak to 18 games, and improved to 26-5 on the season.
The Patriots and Warriors will meet in Monday’s first semi final game from Pulaski County High School at 6 p.m.
Tonight, the final two first round games will be played at PC, beginning with the West Jessamine-Boyle County game which will tip off this evening at 6 p.m.
In tonight’s second game slated to get underway at 7:45 p.m., the Casey County Rebels will square off against tourney favorite Wayne County.
SW — 18 20 24 24 — 86
PC — 15 13 12 17 — 57
Southwestern — Edwards 25, Cromer 16, Butt 10, Fitzgerald 8, Isaacs 8, Gaskin 8, Phelps 3, Miller 3, Cundiff 2, Dykes 2, Richardson 1.
Pulaski Co. — Hall 17, Gover 14, Ross 11, Robinson 6, Burton 5, Royalty 4.