After losing two of their final three games to close out the regular season to Southwestern and West Jessamine in blowout defeats, the Pulaski County Maroons were wounded and weary as they limped into the post season with a 15-12 record on the year.
Last night however at Casey County High School, the only thing that mattered at the end of the night was the fact that Al Gover’s club was 1-0 in the post season, and had punched its ticket to next week’s 12th Regional Tournament.
The big three — Sean Ross, Blake Burton, and Peyton Gover — scored 59 of PC’s 76 points against a pesky and determined Rockcastle County squad on Thursday night in the opening round of the Boy’s 47th District Basketball Tournament, and as a result, it was the Maroons rolling to an impressive, 76-57 victory over the Rockets in impressive fashion.
“I’m very proud of my team,” stated a very happy coach Gover after last night’s victory.
“We had a couple of very tough games there at the end of the season, and we’ve been practicing really well, and to their credit, they’ve been working really hard,” continued the PC coach. “Rockcastle County — you’ve got to hand it to them — because they played tough. They came in here to win, and that was pretty obvious right from the opening tap.”
Indeed, Benny Blanton’s club did not look like a 12-17 team in last night’s 47th District Tournament opener early on between these two rivals.
The Rockets, although they never led in this one, went toe to toe with the Maroons early on, only trailing PC by a 16-14 score at the end of one period of play.
However, behind the play of Ross and Burton in the first half, PC took control of things in a decisive second quarter, outscoring The Rock by a 20-10 margin.
Thanks to that flurry, PC led Rockcastle County 39-25 at the break, and that lead would continue to grow in the second half, but it would not come easy or without some anxious moments.
Rockcastle County hit six of its first seven shots from the field to open the second half of play, trimming the PC lead down to single digits at 48-40.
That’s when the rest of PC’s cast of characters got in on the act, making play after play to help the Maroons stem the tide.
With that 14-point lead trimmed down to eight points, Riley Hall drained a huge trey the next trip down the floor for the Maroons, extending the lead back to 11 points at 51-40.
Peyton Gover then scored on back to back trips, thanks to a couple of nifty moves to the hoop, easing the lead back out to 55-40.
A basket from Burton made it 57-40 in favor of the Maroons, and Rockcastle County would not threaten again.
“Our kids just stepped up tonight and met the challenge,” stated Gover. “Anytime you get a first round win in a district tournament game, you are fortunate.”
“We had some tough situations there in the second half, because we had Sean (Ross) in foul trouble, and other guys stepped up,” remarked Gover. “I thought our three guards really did a nice job. Peyton and Riley (Hall) did a great job tonight, and I thought Riley did a great job as far as making some defensive plays that really helped us. He got a couple of steals in the second half and handled the ball well. Blake (Burton) got back in the groove by taking the ball to the basket tonight. Sean Ross had a big game, and we knew if we could get him the ball down low he would have some success. Hagan Elmore came in and made a couple of big plays — he had the three on one end and a block on the other, so everybody that came in really contributed in this win for us.”
Ross poured in a game-high 23 for Pulaski County in the win, followed by Burton’s 20 points, and Gover’s 16.
PC improved to 16-12 on the year with the victory, and will face Casey County in the championship game of the tourney on Saturday night at 7 p.m.
The Rebels punched their ticket to the finals with an upset win over Somerset last night by a 52-48 score.
For the Maroons, Pulaski County will not only get a shot at a fifth consecutive 47th District championship on Saturday evening, but Gover’s club will also got a chance at some revenge on the Rebels.
The last time the two clubs played — a game at Pulaski County back on February 3rd — it was the Rebels coming away with a 75-67 win over the Maroons in yet another upset.
Both teams will advance to next week’s 12th Regional Tournament which will be hosted by Pulaski County High School, beginning next Wednesday.
RC — 14 11 17 15 — 57
PC — 16 23 20 17 — 76
Rockcastle Co. — Gentry 20, Hasty 15, Pensol 14, McPhetridge 4, Reynolds 3, Rowe 1.
Pulaski Co. — Ross 23, Burton 20, Gover 16, Hall 7, Elmore 5, Clark 4, Phelps 1.