For The Independent
WEST LIBERTY —
Fleming County juniors Troy Steward and Darion Burns were thinking about the eight straight losses to Rowan County.
Steward and Burns emphatically helped end the streak Monday. Both scored 28 points to lead the Panthers to a 81-76 double-overtime win in the Eastern Kentucky Conference tournament at Morgan County High School.
“We both had to come up big for our team because we're the two best players on the team,” Burns said.
Fittingly, Steward and Burns secured the win.
Twelve seconds after Rowan County's Justin Graham made two free throws to give the Vikings a 76-75 lead, Steward knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key over Rowan County's Trevor Newsome. Less than a minute later, Burns stole a pass, dribbled the length of the court and converted a 3-point play.
“Coach (head coach Mark Starns) told us to be active and stuff, so I was waiting for the pass to come back,” Burns said.
For the night, Burns was 11-of-17 from the field, with eight assists, five steals and just two turnovers. “The assists I like the most because I like to get my team involved,” he said.
As Steward heard his scoring line recited — 9-of-27 from the field, 7-of-19 from 3-point range — he cringed a little, which he chalked up to not being ready to shoot when passes came. He didn't hesitate to take the late three.
“I was wide open, I thought I could make it, so I shot it,” Steward said.
Rowan County coach Shawn Thacker said Steward was a concern.
“He'll shoot it from anywhere,” Thacker said “When he arrives in the parking lot, he's capable of shooting the basketball; you've got to get there on him.”
Starns said the Panthers and Vikings took turns going on long scoring runs. “When it looked bleak, our guys found a way to make basketball plays, and we gutted out a double-overtime victory,” he said.
Steward also had a chance to end the game after 32 minutes. Steward passed to Burns with about seven seconds left, but Burns' 5-footer fell short with two ticks left.
It was Burns' turn to try to end the game in the first overtime. He scored the Panthers' last five points, but he missed a short jumper with 3.7 seconds remaining.
Both Starns and Rowan County's Shawn Thacher agreed the most important statistic besides the final score was the Panthers' overwhelming 32-7 victory in points off turnovers. Fleming County committed just seven miscues, while Rowan County suffered through 25.
“I just think us changing defenses, trying to keep them guessing what we were doing, helped us a lot,” Starns said. “Our matchup zone at the end probably is what bailed us out … Our full-court pressure bothered them some, our half-court traps bothered them some, but when we had to reach down and get the win, our 25 (matchup zone) bailed us out.”
Rowan County senior center Matt Brown grabbed 19 rebounds to go with his 16 points and three blocked shots. Thacker's son, Tyler Thacker, led the Vikings (1-1) with 20 points and six assists, and Josh Barnard added 13 points and eight rebounds.
Fleming County meets Russell or East Carter for the title at approximately 8 p.m Thursday.
ROWAN CO.: Stone 9, Newsome 8, Thacker 20, Brown 16, Barnard 13, Graham 8, Lee 2. Three-point goals: Newsome 2, Stone, Graham. FT: 12-of-18. Team Fouls: 20
FLEMING CO.: Burns 28, Crisp 13, Steward 28, Saunders 10, McKee 2. Three-point goals: Steward 7, Crisp. FT: 13-17. Team fouls: 18.
ROWAN 12 15 22 12 10 5 — 76
FLEMING 17 10 20 14 10 10 — 81
Fleming County 59
Lewis County 51
It turned out the Lady Panthers needed every point in their 21-5 second-quarter run because the Lady Lions won the second half, 37-25.
“I thought in the second half I didn't do a very good job, to be honest,” Fleming County coach Kristy Orem said. “I didn't really put them in position. Defensively, I let them back off … Lewis County has everything that every good team wants; they're great players, good point guard, good guards, they can shoot the three, and they've got three post players.”
Good thing Fleming County had junior guard Rachel Boyd — she led her team with 21 points. Seniors Tierra Taylor and Shayla Robinson added 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Lewis County (1-2) sophomore center Savannah Anderson led all scorers with 23 points to go with her 10 rebounds, two assists, three blocs and two steals.
One of Lewis County's first-half problems was turnovers — seven miscues at halftime. An example: a little less than two minutes into the second quarter, the Lady Lions' McKenzie Thompson dribbled to the left of the free throw line — and straight into Fleming County's Cristi Peterson, who drove the length of the floor for the layup.
It must have seemed to Lewis County that Taylor was everywhere, Maybe she was, at least in the first half: 5-of-6 from the field, including 2-of-3 from 3-point range; three rebounds and two steals.
Anderson was Lewis County's entire second-quarter offense; she scored all five points. She added seven more in the third to go with Darbi Hardin's four in the final 1:39, and Fleming County led by just 42-30 with a quarter to go.
Lewis County's Taylor Frye opened the fourth quarter with four points in 44 seconds. Fleming County, meanwhile, didn't do much: After Peterson's field goal with 7:37 left, the Lady Panthers missed four straight free throws and didn't score again until Shayla Robinson's bucket nearly two minutes later.
Anderson followed with five more points, and combined with Tori Liles' 10-footer, Lewis County trailed by just 52-46 with 3:34 remaining.
The Lady Panthers meet Russell or East Carter for the title at 6 p.m. Thursday.
LEWIS CO.: T. Frye 12, Fite 6, Thompson 2, Liles 4, Anderson 23, Hardin 4. Three-point goals: Fite 2. FT: 13-17. Team Fouls:20.
FLEMING CO.: T. Taylor 12, Robinson 11, Boyd 21, Steward 2, Lytle 4, Peterson 9. Three-point goals: Boyd 3, T. Taylor 2, Peterson. FT: 15-27. Team fouls: 17.
LEWIS 9 5 16 21 – 51
FLEMING 13 21 8 17 – 59