For Al Gover and the Pulaski County Maroons, life without Taylor Gover and Kody Johnson — the two most prolific scorers in school history — officially kicked off on Tuesday night in the Maroons season opener against visiting East Jessamine.
And, if Tuesday’s game at Pulaski County is any indication of things to come for coach Gover and company this season, life’s going to be pretty good.
Blake Burton tallied a team-high 26 points, while freshman Peyton Gover — Taylor Gover’s first cousin — took over at the point guard position and added 24 points, while Sean Ross added 22.
That trio helped the Maroons blow open a close game in the third period, and then held off a furious fourth quarter rally by the Jaguars, as Pulaski County began the season with an impressive, 91-81 victory over East Jessamine.
“We did play pretty well tonight,” stated a very happy coach Gover immediately following the game.
“That was a little surprising to me, because with young kids and this being a real game and their first time out, I thought we might have a few jitters, but they came out and put those jitters aside and played a pretty good game as far as attacking the basket and trying to get the rim,” Gover pointed out.
Peyton Gover — taking over for the departed Taylor Gover as PC’s starting point guard — got PC and his prep career off and going just seconds into the game.
Gover took the opening tap and raced down and scored and converted an old-fashioned three-point play just seven seconds into the contest, giving Pulaski a quick, 3-0 lead.
And there would be more to come from the PC freshman, as well as from Burton and Ross.
Pulaski County played an almost flawless first half offensively, taking a 44-38 advantage over East into the intermission.
That lead could have been much, much larger, had it not been for East Jessamine’s Hayden Smith.
Smith — who hit a game-high six three pointers for the contest — helped keep the Jags in this one by draining four treys in the second stanza to keep Chris O’Bryan’s club within striking distance of the Maroons.
As well as Pulaski County played at the offensive end of the court in the opening half of play, coach Gover said there is still much work to be done at the defensive end of the floor on a night when East got several open looks from downtown.
“We’ve got a lot of kids that haven’t been in this position before,” stated Gover. “We’ve got one kid — Blake Burton — that played a lot of varsity minutes last year. Sean (Ross) played a lot of varsity minutes toward the end of the season last year, but we stuck kids in there like Peyton (Gover), Steffan (Stevens), Austin (Clark), and Trevor Ridner who came in as a freshman that came in and gave us an assist and a basket. Brett Phelps came back out this year and gave us some really minutes.”
Trailing by that 44-38 margin at the half, East Jessamine began the second half of play on an 8-2 run to knot this one up for the final time at 46-46, but Pulaski County would answer that early challenge.
PC ended the frame on a 17-9 run after East tied things up, giving coach Gover and company a 63-55 lead heading into the final frame.
Early in the fourth period, a pair of layups by Steffan Stevens eased the PC lead out to double digits — a lead that eventually ballooned to as much as 14 points. However, the Jags had one more run in them.
Behind the game-high 38 points from junior guard Ronnie Carson, East Jessamine eventually trimmed the lead down to just four points late at 83-79, but a three-point play by Burton, and a pair of free throws by Gover helped seal the game for the Maroons.
“Some of these kids are getting some much needed experience at the varsity level, and they’re really stepping up,” stated coach Gover.
“I’ve been really pleased with everybody that I’ve have in here,” continued the PC coach. “And, we’ve got some kids that will be joining us after our football team wins the state championship football game on Saturday. I think we’re just going to get stronger. Obviously, we’re not going to be as good as we can be until later.”
Pulaski County — now 1-0 on the young season — will return to action on Saturday at Noon at Jackson County High School, as the Maroons will face the Eagles of Madison Southern.
EJ — 18 20 17 26 — 81
PC — 24 20 19 28 — 91
EAST JESSAMINE — Carson 38, Smith 22, Kahran 13, Ross 4, Downey 2, Harper 2.
PULASKI CO. — Burton 26, Gover 24, Ross 22, Stevens 11, Clark 3, Phelps 3, Ridner 2.