The 1996 15th Region championship game started out much closer than the district championship game between the two schools the previous week, due in part to the physical play of the Hornets. Paintsville led at the half 34-26 thanks in large part to the play of Todd Tackett and Craig Ratliff. Tackett went 3-for-3 from the 3-point line in the first half and Ratliff controlled the inside game for the Tigers, hitting some key jump shots. Things heated up for both teams in the second half as Magoffin exploded for 26 points in the third quarter (the same amount they had scored in the first half) and Paintsville ended up scoring 21 in the frame as the Tigers held on to a slim 55-52 lead.
The Tigers then started the last quarter on a 16-5 run and seemed to be putting away Magoffin County with a commanding 71-57 lead with just over four minutes left in the game. But within a minute the Hornets went on their own run by scoring seven and holding Paintsville to a single point to cut the Tiger lead to 72-64 with just three minutes remaining. At that point, J. R. VanHoose, Paintsville’s sophomore center, fouled out of the game with only 8 points and 9 rebounds and Magoffin looked to take advantage of the Tiger loss. The Hornets’ Grayson Smith went to line making the first free throw and missing the second, but the miss was rebounded by Grayson’s teammate Brian Helton who made the put back and Paintsville’s lead was only five.
Paintsville converted a free throw but Brian Helton hit a another big shot for the Hornets with long 3-pointer with just over two minutes left, cutting the Paintsville lead to just three. But the Tigers responded with a much needed 6-0 run with two free throws made from both Matt Ratliff and Craig Ratliff and a strong put-back basket by forward Josh McKenzie and increased their lead to 79-70 with just 40 seconds remaining. Magoffin County would just not give up and scored an “old-fashioned” 3-point play from Chris Russell and cut the Tiger lead to 82-77 with just 12 seconds on the clock. Paintsville converted a free throw and the Hornets hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer as the Tigers came off with a tough 83-80 win and the right to represent the 15th Region in the state tournament.