Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

February 11, 2014

Lewis ends Panthers' perfection

FLEMINGSBURG — Lewis County boys basketball coach Joe Hampton has been looking for 32 minutes of effort.

The Lions gave Hampton what he wanted Monday, and then some — an 86-84 overtime win over defending 16th Region champion Fleming County on the Panthers' floor.

“It means a lot, being my senior year and all,” Lewis County guard Brett Ruckel said.

Lewis County (13-11) has been playing some of its best basketball: Rowan County's 84-66 win Saturday emphatically halted the Lions' three-game roll, but the Lions improved to 8-2 over their last 10.

“Earlier in the year, we would give effort maybe half or three quarters of the game,” Hampton said. “We took a step backward Saturday against Rowan by not giving full effort, especially on the defensive side … We gave heart and good planning (Monday).”

As he has practically all season, Ruckel led Lewis County Monday with 30 points, but he was far from the only reason for the win. Senior guard Sammy Holder scored 19 points, and two free throws from Wade Adams and Jake Parker put the Lions ahead, 84-79, with 19.2 seconds left in overtime.

The loss was Fleming County's (17-8) first to a 16th Region team this season, and it was the Panthers' second straight (a 73-62 setback against 14th Region power Knott County Central at the Joe B. Hall Prep Classic Sunday at Montgomery County was the other).

Still, Fleming County has won 11 of its last 14, and the last thing head coach Mark Starns wants to hear is that his team was tired because it played four games in four days.

“We can't walk out of this locker room and let people say, that's understandable, that we played four games in four days,” Starns said. “Excuses are a sign of weakness.”

Credit the Panthers for at least one thing: they overcame a 60-41 deficit with 6:12 to go in regulation. Senior Troy Steward's 36 points marked the second straight game over 35 (he poured in 47 Sunday), but it was senior guard Darion Burns' 20 points — including 11 in the fourth quarter — that helped send the game to overtime.

Burns played his fourth game of the season as he recovers from knee surgery. Besides the points, Starns said Burns is starting to regain some confidence.

“I told (Burns), 'you've got to go through the bumps,'” Starns said. “(I told Darion), ‘I believe in you; you've got to believe in yourself.'”

Burns' scoring was good, but it doesn't begin to describe what else he did in the fourth quarter.

There was scoring: With 5:15 left, he stole a pass and hit a layup.

There were passing and defense: He found Steward for a bucket, combined with Brady Saunders to force a turnover and made a free throw. The score: Lewis County, 60-48, 4:44 left in regulation.

Next, a steal and score. Lewis County, 60-50, 4:36 remaining.

Holder's bucket and free throw put Lewis County up 65-52, with 3:48 to go. A little more than a minute after that, Burns deflected a pass that resulted in a Saunders field goal, and with 2:27 to go, his assist led to Steward's 3-pointer.

Lewis County up, 65-59.

Ruckel made a free throw. Steward followed with two technical foul free throws, and teammate Austin Crisp knocked down a 15-footer from the left corner.

Lions up, 66-63, 2:05 remaining.

Saunders knocked down a 12-footer less than 30 seconds later. Seconds after that, Lewis County's Trenton Walker converted a Ruckel miss and it was Lions, 68-67, with 1:16 to go.

Here is where Burns was at his best: six points in nearly a minute, which tied the score at 71-all with 36 seconds left. His outburst matched a combined five points from Walker and Holder.

Ruckel missed a shot from the left corner with one second to go. After Saunders' free throw early in overtime put the Panthers up, 72-71, Holder and Ruckel followed with 10 of Lewis County's final 15 points.

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