In Feb. 24 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Editor
Fourth seed Cumberland County got the attention of one seed Russell County (16-11) after one quarter Monday night in the opening round of 16th district tournament action at Metcalfe County High School.
The underdog Panthers led at the end of the first quarter, 20-19, and looked nothing at all like the 3-24 team they were coming into the game.
Cumberland County, who shot 33 percent on the night, was hustling up and down the court, beating the Lakers to loose balls and hitting a majority of their shots in the early going.
Then came the second quarter.
The Lakers outscored the Panthers 21-12 in the second frame en route to a 71-48 win to put them in Friday night's district championship game against the Metcalfe-Clinton winner from Tuesday night.
The Lakers, who shot 38 percent for the game, doubled the Panthers up 14-7 in the third quarter and outscored them 17-9 in the final quarter to give them the win.
"I think we had a consistent effort all night," said Laker coach Willie Feldhaus. "They came out and really made us work that first half, and in the second half too, don't get me wrong."
Feldhaus emphasized the first quarter, saying Cumberland County came out early, hit some shots and set the tone for the game.
Sophomore Tyler Robertson, coming off an ankle injury where he missed two games, led the Lakers in scoring with 20 points and also grabbed nine rebounds but it was the high energy play of eighth grader Nick Coffey that lifted the Lakers late in the first half.
Coffey grabbed 15 first half rebounds and 20 for the game to go along with 13 points to overpower the smaller Panther front line.
Feldhaus said he told his team before the game that they needed to go out and play some of the best defense possible as well as go to the glass hard for rebounds. Coffey must have gotten that message.
As a team, the Lakers outrebounded the Panthers, 47-28, led by Coffey's huge night.
"I can't imagine that has happened too many times," Feldhaus said of Coffey's night of board work. "Nobody in the six years that I've been here and he's averaging double figure rebounds as well and that has not happened either."
Junior Blake Aaron tallied 13 points for the game hitting five of eight shots for the game, including two three -point shots. Sophomore Barton Mann, also playing with an ankle injury, did not start but came off the bench to score eight points and grab five rebounds.
Sophomore Nick Britt played 14 minutes, scored five points and contributed some high energy on both ends of the floor in the ballgame, especially playing lock down defense on the Panthers' offensive threat, junior Asher Sullivan.
"Nick has been giving us some really good minutes the past few games and coach might need to play him more, quite honestly," Feldhaus said.
Senior point guard Martin Cross scored five points, dished out four assists and garnered five steals on the night.
"I don't feel I can play without him," Feldhaus said of the senior. "He leads us in minutes on the year and that is how special he is to me."
Feldhaus said Cross was an excellent off-the-ball defender and knew how to get in the passing lanes to come up with those steals as well as a heady point guard who played within himself and didn't overstep the boundaries of his own game.
Brandon Bunch came off the bench to score four points for Russell County while Dustin Pierce scored two points. Senior Logan Smith also finished with one point. Sullivan led the Panthers in scoring with 19 points in a losing effort. Senior Nelson Price scored six points and grabbed seven rebounds in his final high school basketball game for Cumberland County.
The Lakers now will face the Clinton-Metcalfe winner on Friday night at 7 p.m. at Metcalfe County High School for the 16th district crown.
The Lakers captured the title last season after defeating Clinton County 64-61 on their home floor.
Monday night's win also sends Russell County to the 4th region tournament next week at E.A. Diddle Arena on the campus of Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green whether they win or lose Friday night.
Last Friday, the Lakers lost to visiting Allen County-Scottsville 53-50 on Senior Night as Cross and Smith played their final home game. Coffey led the Lakers with 14 points while Aaron finished with 13 points on the night.