While rivalry games are very unpredictable, one thing is certain when the Knox Central Panthers and Barbourville Tigers meet on the hardwood — fans in attendance are going to get their money’s worth.
And Monday’s meeting between the cross-town foes was exactly that as the two teams combined for 179 points in a 97-82 Knox Central victory.
Further proof that the game was exciting was that only 10 points separated the two teams with 1:30 remaining to play.
But in the end, 14th-ranked Knox Central was just too much for the Class A Tigers.
While Knox Central Coach Tony Patterson was happy to get the win, the Panthers’ seventh in a row, he was none too happy with his team’s overall performance. But instead of placing blame for what he considered a lackluster effort, he instead gave credit to Barbourville, which hit 14 3-pointers in the contest.
“We knew coming in that Barbourville was a really good 3-point shooting team and we stressed that in preparation this week,” he said. “And they shot it well. They hit some big shots. And that’s a credit to them. They are a great shooting team.
“But we didn’t guard very well tonight,” continued the Knox Central coach. “The bottom line is, we’re not that good right now. And I said that a month ago. We did take some steps forward since then, but then we took a step back and got laxed. Especially defensively. We pride ourselves on defense and we gave up 82 points tonight. Before the game we were thinking 50 and under. That’s what we told our kids.”
Barbourville Coach Derek Collins echoed Patterson’s praise for the Tigers, saying he was proud of his team’s fight for not giving up against the potent Panthers.
“I’m very proud of our team. They didn’t give up,” said Collins. “And we played the majority of the game without some of our key players. We’re not happy with the loss, but the effort was good.”
The Tigers, who came into the game at 7-7 overall, had no answer for Knox Central’s explosive offensive, so they matched it with an offensive outburst of their own. The 82 points is the second highest total for the Tigers this season. It’s also the most Knox Central has given up.
“Knox Central has a great team,” said Collins. “Tonight we would stop a player and someone else steps up and hits the shot. And that’s the difference is they have five or more players who can shoot from anywhere. You can’t key on one or two players for them. You have to key on every player they have on the floor. And thats hard to do. You think you are doing great with a double team on one player, and then someone else steps up.”
Nick Martin led the way for Knox Central with 22 points and eight rebounds, while acting as a game-changer in the paint with his defensive prowess. He hit nine of his 12 shot attempts from the floor and was perfect in his four free throw attempts.
Jaylen Adams was next with 21 points, followed by Kevionte Turner with a double-double of 18 points and 13 rebounds. For his effort, K. Turner was named the Bingham Tire Player of the Game.
Markelle Turner, back in the lineup after missing the Panthers’ last game with a sore knee, added 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including a powerful dunk that revived the Panthers when things were not going well.
Zach Patterson was strong off the bench with seven points, followed by Dane Imel with six, Jermel Carton four, and Dalton Elliott three.
Barbourville got a game-high 24 points from Christian Bunch, who hit six 3-pointers in the contest.
“We finally got Christian settled in and shooting the ball,” commented Collins. “And that’s what we’ve been telling him is to just relax and shoot the ball. Tonight he got his feet set and hit some 3’s that really helped us.”
Trenton Schell was next with 12 points, followed by J.D. McVey and Shawn Vaughn with 11 apiece, Creg Gray with eight, Jacob Helton seven, Connor Bain five, and Rex Miller two.
For Knox Central, which has some very tough games upcoming, immediate improvement is a must, said Patterson, who is optimistic that with hard work the Panthers can get to where they want to be in the coming weeks.
“Everyone knows we can score,” he said. “But not everyone knows we can play defense after watching this game tonight. We can make excuses, but it’s totally unacceptable. The mental toughness just was not there.
“The good thing is, we can fix everything,” added Patterson. “A lot of it is effort, body language and attitude. But everything bad we can fix.”
For Barbourville, which also has some tough games in its immediate future, including the A All Classic later this week, the Tigers must learn from their mistakes and use the momentum from the good showing against Knox Central to keep moving in the right direction.
“Giving up offensive rebounds,” Collins said when asked what the key to future success is for his club. “I don’t know how many offensive rebounds Knox Central had tonight, but I’m sure they had plenty of second chance points. You take those away and it’s a different ball game. We’ve got to learn to block out better as a team.”
Knox Central (14-1) will be back in action on Thursday against Bell County and Saturday at home versus Tates Creek.
Barbourville (7-8) faces Red Bird on Saturday in All A Classic action.