Regional review, Thursday 3/4
News and notes from day 2 of the boys 12th Region Tournament at Pulaski County:
- Pulaski County defeated Danville 67-58; Mercer County defeated McCreary Central 62-52. Pulaski (13-17) plays Mercer (21-9) in Monday’s 8 p.m. semifinal.
- It didn’t matter that Mercer’s players had no regional experience, nor that McCreary (24-7) was the winningest team in the region and one of the co-favorites in the tournament. It only mattered that the Titans outplayed McCreary on both ends of the floor to send the Raiders packing without the regional title their fans wanted so badly. Mercer is the only 12th Region team that had beaten McCreary this season, and the Titans repeated that feat in a much more difficult setting tonight. The Raiders had an edge in tournament experience — Mercer hadn’t been to the regional since 2005, more than a year before its merger with Harrodsburg — and virtual home-court advantage, as scores of schoolchildren were bused to the game to help McCreary fans vastly outnumber the Mercer supporters. But the Titans had the better night, executing their offense with precision and keeping McCreary’s shooters from burning them from the perimeter and its rebounders from burning them for second-chance baskets.
- Mercer led for most of the game, taking a 12-4 lead in the first six minutes, withstanding one run early in the second quarter and another late in the third, then taking the lead for good at 37-36 on a 3-point goal by Clay Cinnamon in the first minute of the fourth quarter. McCreary was still within two points when the Titans scored three times in 43 seconds to take a 50-42 lead. The last two of the three buckets in that span came when Mercer’s Kasey McRay stole the ball from McCreary star Aaron Watts and drove for a layup, then did it again on the next play to effectively break the Raiders’ backs.
- Mercer hit only 10 of 18 free throws in the final three minutes, but McCreary couldn’t hit the shots it needed to close the gap. The Raiders shot 36 percent from the field and hit 15 of 18 free throws, but they were just 1 for 18 from 3-point range overall and 1 for 9 in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, the Titans were 7 for 15 from long distance.
- Cinnamon led Mercer with 20 points, followed by Jamel Taylor with 15 and Aaron Lee with 10. Lee also had 11 rebounds. Watts had 18 points in the final game of his outstanding five-year career at McCreary; Zack Roark, another of the team’s six seniors, added 17 points.
- This was Mercer’s first regional tournament win since 2003, when it eked out a two-point win over Lincoln County in the first round before losing a close game in the semifinals to eventual champion South Laurel.
- Danville (12-16) ran neck-and-neck with Pulaski for most of the battle between two of the three teams in the tournament with losing records. The game was tied at 47-all before the Maroons scored seven unanswered points over about two minutes, taking a 54-47 lead with 3:50 to play on a layup by Kody Johnson. Danville drew within 56-53 about 90 seconds later on a 3-pointer by Jacody Taylor, but it got no closer.
- The Admirals had no way to stop Pulaski’s leading scorer, Tyler Jenkins, who made hay inside just as he did last week in the 47th District final against Casey County. Jenkins, one of only two seniors on the team, had 33 points against Casey, and he got 28 against Danville. Meanwhile, Taylor, Danville’s leading scorer at almost 18 points per game, scored only once on that late 3-pointer, finishing 1 for 13 from the field.
- Johnson, one of three freshman starters, scored 24 points for Pulaski. Taylor Gover, another freshman and the nephew of coach Al Gover, added 11. Tevin Raines came off the bench to lead Danville with 24 points, and reserve Tryston Ford had nine.
- The boys regional is on hold until Monday, but play resumes tonight in the girls tournament at Lincoln County. The home crowd will arrive early as Lincoln (23-4) plays Southwestern (20-9) at 6 p.m., followed by Rockcastle County (25-4) vs. Monticello (18-12) at 7:45 p.m. Lincoln beat Southwestern 59-44 at home on Jan. 23; Rockcastle and Monticello have not played since Rockcastle was moved to the 12th Region in 2006.