By David Leveridge – 54th District Blog Representative
Hazard, KY hosted the the 54th District Championship. The game was hosted by Perry County Central being held @ the John C. Combs Arena, on Perry Central’s campus. The game featured two of the better teams in the region; the defending 14th Region Champs the Buckhorn Wildcats and the prohibitive region favorite, the Perry County Central Commodores. Both teams brought a large crowd, and the game started out as any district championship does with an excited fan base and both teams wanting to win the game. In Perry County, basketball is one of the primary sports and people get really excited this time of year. Both teams along with the Hazard Bulldogs have a rich tradition and are always competitive in region competition. Each of these three teams have represented the 14th Region in the KHSAA Sweet 16 at least once in the last ten years. Although the fan bases were both excited and expected a victory, Perry County Central was in control from the opening tip and never looked back while cruising to a 31 point victory.
Perry County Central controlled the tip and were the first to get on the board, with a 3 point shot early in the game. From that moment on, Perry County never trailed in the game. Perry County Central was a bigger, more athletic team and will be a challenge for any team in the 14th Region. Perry ‘s lead continued to grow after the tip as they scored the first 8 points of the game. They continued to press the Wildcats. Coach John Noble of Buckhorn burned a couple of quick time outs to attempt to settle down the Buckhorn Wildcats. Three points baskets were being hit early in the game by PCC, and Buckhorn struggled to score. Perry County Central’s Cornett was hot early on scoring on 8 of the first 10 points of the game, hitting two 3 point attempts and scoring on a layup. Cornett’s scoring was all done in the first 5 minutes of the first quarter. At the end of the first quarter, Perry County Central already had a 19 point lead (24- 5) over the Buckhorn Wildcats. The lead continued to grow in the second quarter. Buckhorn finally started scoring the ball better in the second quarter as Daniel Hurley hit on several 3 point baskets. Perry was able to counter with good defense, ball movement and scoring in transition. When Buckhorn tried to mount a comeback, Perry Central had an answer every time. The lead increased to 26 points with a 1:50 seconds remaining in the half. The score at the half was Perry County Central 43, Buckhorn 17. Perry County Central’ s # 3 Cornett finished the half with 21 points, however did not score again in the game, but his impact on the game was felt by Buckhorn.
After the half Buckhorn came out playing their best basketball of the game. They came out moving the ball, breaking down Perry County defenders, and making shots. Daniel Hurley got hot again connecting on a couple of early 3 point baskets. Buckhorn began to cut into the lead, reducing the deficit to 18 points early in the third quarter. Perry County called a timeout and the team was settled down by Coach Shannon Hoskins. Perry County came out of the timeout refocused and were quickly back up to 25 with little resistance from the Wildcats. The play of the game happened when Perry County was able to force a turnover and get into transition on a fast break opportunity. Perry County Centrals #23 Akinyemi dunked the ball with a vicious two hand slam. Perry County Central was ecstatic with fans going bezerk. At the end of the third quarter, Perry County Central maintained a very comfortable lead of 21 points: Perry County Central 54, Buckhorn 33. The fourth quarter was more of what had occurred all game, Perry County Central continued to build on their lead by hitting several 3 point attempts. Perry County sent in their reserve players with about 3 minutes remaining in the game. By this point, Buckhorn was tired and knew that it was highly unlikely to mount a comeback. Perry County hit several free throws with reserves getting in some much needed District action minutes. The lead at one time grew to 32 points. Ultimately, Perry County Central won the game by 31 points with a final score of Perry County Central 74, Buckhorn 43.
Although Buckhorn was playing a heavy favorite to not only win the District, but a Region favorite, they continued to play hard and never gave up. If not for the hot start by Perry County Central and their dominant size inside, this would have been a much closer game. Tonight wasn’t Buckhorn’s night but the good thing about the District Tournament, both teams are still alive for the post season tournament. The 14th Region Tournament will kick off Wednesday March 1, 2017 in Jackson, KY @ the Fairce O. Woods Coliseum. It is very possible that these two teams can meet again in the Regional Tournament. The dream of playing at the Sweet 16, “the greatest show in hoops”, is still alive for both teams. If they meet again, I expect a much closer game. While Perry is the Region favorite and has more size and athleticism than almost any team in the Region, it’s hard to count out Coach John Noble and the Buckhorn Wildcats. They faced similar odds last year and no one believed in them, other than their team, coach and community. Buckhorn went on to beat a similar Perry County Central team and win the 14th Region Championship in 2016.
Perry County Central’s Damon Tobler was voted MVP of the District Tournament. Tobler only finished the game with 4 points, but played nearly the entire game. He was a force inside and led the team in rebounds.
Scoring for the Game
Runner Up for the 54th District Tournament, the Buckhorn Wildcats:
#1 Blank 3 points
#20 Bennett 14 points
#24 Morris 4 points
# 14 Engle 4 points
# 33 Hurley 10 points
# 10 Abner 3 points
# 2 Griffith 2 points
# 11 Caudill 3 points
54th District Champions, the Perry County Central Commodores:
# 2 C. Caudill 6 points
# 3 Cornett 21 points
# 5 Popp 3 points
# 13 Woolum 4 points
# 20 Tobler (MVP) 4 points
# 23 Akinyemi 8 points
# 24 Back 13 points
#32 Hill 10 points #35 N. Caudill 3 points #45 Turner 2 points