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 —

"Fleming County is probably the worst team we could be playing for that to happen, with the way they pressure you," Rowan County's coach said. "It was like blood in the water."

The Panthers pulled to within 24-23 at halftime and then launched their huge run.

"We got off to a slow start, but finally exploded," said junior forward Brady Saunders, who scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half and was also a defensive catalyst. "We slowed down against Ashland (semifinals) and let them back in. We didn't want to slow down this time. We wanted to step on their throat."

Burns amassed 21 points, six steals, five assists and four rebounds. Saunders was next with 18 points while also helping to fuel the strong defensive effort.

"They gave us their best shot," Starns said. "When Tyler went down, it probably sucked the air out of their sails. It was a nasty-looking injury."

Thacker watched the second half from the end of the bench and used crutches to return to the court afterwards to pick up his All-Tournament award.

Ryne Callahan came off the bench to lead Rowan County (20-14) with 13 points, followed by Jalen Stone with 10.

Along with Thacker's injury, the Vikings were hampered by foul trouble to big men Josh Barnard and Matt Brown, as well as backup point guard Justin Graham.

"No regrets here," Shawn Thacker said. "I'm proud of my kids, what they accomplished. We want to make it to the semifinals every year and have a chance."

ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at rstanley@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2671.

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