Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

January 29, 2014

Burns on verge of return

Fleming standout could see action at Boyd tonight

FLEMINGSBURG — Fleming County has, so far, defended its spot as the 16th Region’s top team effectively all season, sporting an 11-0 record against region foes.

That was without even being at full strength, which the Panthers have become — or at least close to it — with the impending return of senior point guard Darion Burns.

Burns, last season’s 16th Region Tournament MVP, was cleared Monday to return from a torn right anterior cruciate ligament sustained on June 28.

The Panthers play at Boyd County tonight. Fleming County coach Mark Starns didn’t rule out using Burns in that game, but expects for certain to use him Monday at archrival Rowan County.

“It feels good,” Burns said after practice Wednesday. “I’m getting stronger still. Still gotta work on some things, keep building it up and make it 100 (percent), but my therapist told me when I took the test it’s about 88 percent healthy, so it’s getting there.”

Starns added that Burns was doing extra work to rebuild his cardiovascular fitness.

Fleming County (14-6) is tied for the second-best winning percentage in the region.

“I thought our guys learned to win without him and became probably a better team, and I hope we’re an even better team when he comes on the floor,” Starns said. “Enthusiasm was tremendous today in every drill, every segment, every part of practice. Everybody was getting after it. (With) his presence on the floor and his defensive prowess, everybody else’s confidence picks up.”

Without Burns, Troy Steward has continued the emergence he began last season, scoring 20.3 points per game. Three other Panthers are also averaging in double figures: Austin Crisp, Brady Saunders and Wilder Williams, whose presence down low led Starns to suggest he could become one of the region’s top players next season.

Burns tallied 17.4 points and 5.7 rebounds a night last season as the Panthers won their first 61st District and 16th Region titles. He made the Kentucky Junior All-Star team.

Adding a player of that caliber to a team already among the region’s best only makes life tougher for other contenders.

“How many teams can (contend), if you take, OK, ‘who’s your best player?’ and take him out of the equation?” Ashland coach Buddy Biggs asked rhetorically. “They’ve done a great job just to be what they are, and I think whether (Burns) comes back or not they’re in the conversation, but he certainly changes that conversation if he’s anywhere near healthy, in a positive way.”

Vikings coach Shawn Thacker has seen his own son, Tyler Thacker, return from an ACL injury sustained in last year’s region final.

“We’ll find out how (Burns returning) changes them, and that will change how we do our thing,” Shawn Thacker said. “You also have to think about, when you’re building your puzzle, how does that react to the other teams that you’re gonna have to compete with, possibly, for a district or regional title?”

Burns has had an offer to play collegiately from Pikeville. He said Evansville has also continued to show interest.

Starns said for Fleming County to feel comfortable entering postseason play, Burns has merely to “be himself, and no other description except that.”

“He doesn’t need to be afraid of anything happening to him, because the leg that he’s rehabbed, that’s his strongest leg now,” Starns said. “He just needs to come in and be Darion Burns, and I feel if he comes in and will be himself, we’ll be all right.”

Added Burns: “There’s a lot of good teams in (the region) and we’ve just gotta come out and play hard and make a statement, so we can make it back to Rupp again.”

ZACK KLEMME can be reached at zklemme@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2658.


Text Only
Local Sports
  • Golf scramble will benefit Paramount Arts Center

    Paramount Woman’s Association’s seventh annual Ladies’ Golf Scramble is scheduled for Aug. 11 at Bellefonte Country Club.

    July 30, 2014

  • Kittens call on Ingram

    Somebody had to follow Dave Miller.
    Scott Ingram is pleased to be the coach to fill the vacancy for the man who built Ashland Blazer softball into a perennial state Top 25 program. The Kittens have won the 16th Region championship every year since 2009.

    July 29, 2014

  • 0729kypgaJr0034.jpg Golfers go out with an encore

    Evan Goble said he “wasn’t completely ready for a playoff” on Monday.
    That didn’t stop him from holing two pressure-packed playoff putts to win the 13-14-year-old division of the final event of the summer on the Kentucky PGA Junior Tour at Bellefonte Country Club.

    July 29, 2014 4 Photos

  • EKC Grid-O-Rama set for Aug. 15-16

    The annual Eastern Kentucky Conference football scrimmage contests are set for Aug. 15-16 at Fleming County and Raceland.

    July 29, 2014

  • Holliday embraces high expectations

    As Marshall football prepares to return to the gridiron to begin fall practice Aug. 4, this season the program finds itself labeled something that it has not been in many years: a favorite.

    July 29, 2014

  • Mobley, Jude key for EKU

    Eastern Kentucky coach Dean Hood has revamped the Colonels’ defense in hopes of containing OVC opponents’ spread offenses.

    July 29, 2014

  • ZACK KLEMME: Punchless Reds wasting solid pitching

    The last nine days have been an exercise in understanding just how slim the margin for error is for baseball teams — even good ones — that can’t score.

    July 27, 2014

  • 0726fbPrac0079.jpg Practice rolls on as kickoff approaches in less than 5 weeks

    As high school football teams strap on helmets and prepare for Friday nights next month, the theme of the first couple of weeks of practice for most is simple.
    You gotta work. Hard.
    And if you don’t, it’ll be exposed come Aug. 22.
    “Everybody looks good in helmets,” Ashland coach Tony Love said with a grin. “We’re all undefeated. There’s a lot of work to get done.
    “Our coaches and kids, we all know it, and that’s why they’re here and we’re here, and we’re gonna push hard every day.”

    July 25, 2014 4 Photos

  • kenzie-breaststroke.jpg Pennington makes push for Nationals

    Swimmer Kenzie Pennington had one last chance to make the cut for this year’s YMCA Long Course National Championships.
    The 15-year-old from Ashland didn’t disappoint.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Salyers shoots 75 for title at Lakeside

    Baylee Salyers of Flatwoods shot a 3-over par 75 at Lakeside Golf Course on Thursday to win the Girls Open division of the Walmart Kentucky PGA Junior Tour event.

    July 24, 2014