Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

March 3, 2013

16th Region championship: Fleming Ruppture

Panthers break through to state for first time since 1999

(Continued)

MOREHEAD —

Burns had a dunk at the beginning of the fourth quarter, then got loose for another slam following teammate Troy Steward's blocked shot as the margin ballooned to 18 points at the three-minute mark.

"I'm so thrilled," said Starns, who won the title in his first season at Fleming County. 

"After what happened at Henderson County last year, being dismissed with a 99-45 record, I feel like I'm vindicated," said an emotional Starns, choking back tears. "I didn't get my shot to go to the State Tournament. I just feel vindicated."  

Starns also won a regional championship at Johnson Central in 2006. He has been a part of eight regional finals overall as a head or assistant coach.

Junior-dominated Fleming County wouldn't be stopped this season. The Panthers' 28-6 record includes a 20-1 mark against 16th Region opponents.

"They force you into playing fast, doing things you don't want to do," said Shawn Thacker after his team finished with 20 turnovers. "Hopefully, they get to Rupp Arena and continue playing well."

Rowan County, coming off wins over Morgan County and Russell, tried to take down a third consecutive opponent with at least 22 wins. The Vikings moved out to a 24-12 advantage in the second quarter while Fleming County settled mostly for outside shots against a 2-3 zone and couldn't find the range.

"We were rebounding well, getting some transition baskets and playing good defense," Thacker said.

But Burns gave the Panthers some momentum with a putback of his own missed free throw. Then misfortune struck Rowan County when Tyler Thacker fell to the floor with a left knee injury and had to be assisted off the court. Prior to that, he had given the Vikings a spark with six points, four assists and three rebounds.

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