For Fleming County, the numbers don’t lie.
With four starters in double figures, a 37-24 rebounding advantage, nine blocked shots and 50 percent field goal shooting, the Panthers successfully started toward another region title on Saturday. The defending champions beat Elliott County 67-45 in the opener of the 16th Region Tournament at Morehead State’s Ellis T. Johnson arena.
Fleming County looked to be pulling away in the first half, ahead 30-16 with 2:25 left before halftime. But Elliott County put together a 9-0 run to pull back within five, as Logan Nickell canned a 3-pointer just before the buzzer to make the score 30-25.
“We took our foot off the accelerator in the first half,” Panthers coach Mark Starns said. “We watched film on them four straight days. We shouldn’t have jitters with this much experience but I hope the jitters are out now.”
The Lions then quickly cut the lead to three as the second half opened, as Hunter Holbrook scored off an offensive rebound with 6:40 remaining. A Fleming County timeout was quickly taken, and the Panthers responded.
From there, they scored eight unanswered, and then another 6-0 run to close the third quarter had the lead built back to 15 at 46-31 going into the fourth. Elliott County scored just six points in the quarter, with only two field goals.
“We just had a hard time getting the ball to go in the basket,” Elliott County coach Greg Adkins said. “I thought we attacked well, had some nice drives and were doing the things we needed to do but the ball just wouldn’t go in and it started slipping away from there.”
Elliott County wasn’t able to threaten the Panthers again, and trailed by as many as 18 at 59-41 with 3:15 left.
Troy Steward and Darion Burns led Fleming County with 16 points apiece, with Steward adding 15 rebounds for a double-double. He also had four blocks. Burns scored the Panthers’ first six points of the third quarter. Austin Crisp and Brady Saunders joined the two in double digits with 14 points and 12 points, respectively.
Hunter Holbrook led all scorers with 21 points for Elliott County (18-10). Logan Nickell, the Lions’ lone senior, followed with 12 points.
“They were both big for us all season,” Adkins said. “Tonight they played with a lot of effort, intensity and confidence. We’re going to miss Logan but we like where we are going forward. We’ll have a ton of experience coming back and we just have to keep building.”
Fleming County (22-9) advances to Monday’s semifinals, where the Panthers will face Lewis County at 6:30 p.m. The two teams split during the regular season, with Lewis County winning in overtime, 86-84, on Feb. 10 in Flemingsburg.
“Lewis County beat us when we were playing our fourth game in four days and they deserved to beat us,” Starns said. “That was our only region loss and we’re going to have to come ready to play. I’d like to get off to a fast start. We have to focus, pay attention to detail and come ready to play basketball.”
Balanced scoring, dominant rebounding pace Panthers past Elliott
For Fleming County, the numbers don’t lie.
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