After disposing of Louisville Waggener in the opening round of the inaugural Lake Cumberland Holiday Hoops Tournament on Thursday night, the Pulaski County Maroons returned to the PC Gym for a second round encounter against a Taylor County team that was riding a modest, three-game winning streak.
The Cardinals — with the dynamic, one-two punch of Caleb Wiggington and Quentin Goodin — expected to give coach Al Gover and crew a stiff challenge on Friday night, with a berth into the semi finals awaiting the winner.
And, when all was said and done, Pulaski County passed this test with flying colors.
Kody Johnson notched 21 points and Taylor Gover added 20, helping the Maroons break open a close game at halftime, on their way to an impressive, 81-62 triumph over the Cardinals.
And, it was at the defensive end where PC got its work done in this one.
The Maroons forced the Cardinals into 24 turnovers for the contest, helping Gover’s club run its record to 7-3 on the season, winning for the fifth time in its past six games.
“Our defense, especially in the second half was the difference in the game,” stated a very happy coach Gover after the contest.
“Every game we’ve played pretty well in, we’ve been pretty good defensively,” added the Maroon coach. “I think that sets the tone for our team — we have that intensity and that kind of effort — we’re pretty good. I think in the second half, Kody Johnson stepped up and did a really good job on (Quentin) Goodin, and he accepted that challenge; that was a big difference in the ballgame right there.”
As far as starts to a game goes, Pulaski County could have hardly began this one any faster.
The Maroons raced out to a quick, 9-0 lead less than two minutes into the game, but the Cardinals would come roaring back.
And it was the tandem of Wiggington and Goodin leading the way.
Wiggington drained three treys in the first half of play, on his way to 18 points in the opening half.
Goodin meanwhile tallied eight points in the first quarter, but went to the bench with 7:47 remaining in the second period with his third foul of the contest.
Still, Taylor County was able to come back from that 9-0 hole to take its biggest lead of the night over PC — 23-16 late in the first period.
A Taylor Gover three-pointer trimmed that deficit to 23-19 at the end of the first stanza, but there would be much, much more to come from the Maroons.
With Goodin on the bench saddled with those three early fouls for the remainder of the first half, Pulaski County took advantage against Taylor County playing without one of its stars.
Another three-pointer from Gover knotted this one up at 27-27, and when Blake Burton completed an old-fashioned three-point play, PC went back into the lead for good leading the Cards 32-29.
A Kody Johnson conventional three-point play extended the margin in the Maroons favor to 37-30 late in the first half, before PC went into the break with a 40-34 advantage.
“Those two kids — (Caleb) Wiggington and (Quentin) Goodin — are very good players,” stated Gover. “The Wiggington kid — I didn’t think he was going to miss a shot there in the first half. He was shooting lights out early. We knew going in however those were the two kids we were going to have to focus on and pay attention to them. In the second half, we picked up our defensive intensity and did a much, much better job on both of those guys.”
Leading Taylor County by that six-point margin at the half, the Maroons broke this one wide open in the third period, and it was at the defensive end of the floor, as well as the play of an inspired Spencer Laign that carried that way.
Laign was held scoreless in the first half of play, but he exploded in the second half scoring all 12 of his points, coming up with some key rebounds and a couple of block shots along the way as well.
A nifty layup by Gover — where he did a 360 spin at the basket for the hoop — gave the Maroons their biggest lead of the night midway through the third frame at 52-39.
Riley Hall — who gave PC some valuable minutes off the bench with seven points — drilled a three-point basket of his own just before the horn sounded ending the third quarter — which gave the Maroons their biggest lead of the night at that juncture, 65-47.
Another trey by Gover early in the final stanza gave Pulaski its biggest lead of the night — 72-49 — and Taylor County would never really threaten in this one again.
Besides the 21 points from Johnson and 20 points from Gover, Pulaski County got a nice effort from Laign with 12 points, while Tyler Goins played another solid game with 10 points, while pulling down a game-high 12 rebounds.
In all, it was a complete team effort, as Gover sees his club making improvement coming out of the holidays.
“We are playing well right now and we’re getting better defensively,” pointed out the PC coach.
“Our kids are really working together pretty hard on defense, and some of the games we played down in Tennessee last week, we pretty much dominated at the defensive end,” said Gover. “We got some good minutes off the bench tonight from Riley Hall, Mason Helton, Henry Lorman, and Sean Ross — so everybody’s making contributions when they come into the game, and we have to have that kind of effort from those guys.”
With the win, the Maroons advanced to last night’s semi final round, where Pulaski County met up against North Hardin.
Details of that game as well as the remainder of the tournament will be in Tuesday’s edition.
TC — 23 11 13 15 — 62
PC — 19 21 25 16 — 81
TAYLOR CO. — Wiggington 24, Goodin 22, Webster 7, Smith 5, Cundiff 3, Gregory 1.
PULASKI CO. — Johnson 21, Gover 20, Laign 12, Goins 10, Burton 7, Hall 7, Helton 2, Lorman 2.