Paintsville would now play for third place in the tournament and would face the Binghamton, N.Y., Patriots. The Patriots were the defending New York State champions and were led by consensus All-American guard King Rice, who was considered the fastest guard in the country.
“It was unbelievable how quick he was,” Coach Runyon recalled of Rice. “But it was unbelievable to me how fast Mike Minix was against him. It was unbelievable to see Mike Minix get a ball at the free throw line and outrun King Rice to the other end and shoot a layup. Mike Minix was the quickest kid, with the ball, I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Paintsville was able to keep it close early and after a few minutes the game was tied at 11. The Patriots, however, were able to go on an 18-10 run and take a 29-21 lead into the locker room at halftime. Binghamton was able to maintain its lead in the third stanza and were up 41-34 going into the fourth. That is when Pelphrey took over for the Tigers. Scoring nine of his team-high 20 points in the fourth, Pelphrey and the Tigers were able to mount a furious comeback and hold on for the upset over Binghamton 53-51.
It was a total team effort upsetting two nationally ranked teams (DeMatha and Binghamton were both ranked in the USA Today Top 25) at the Beach Ball Classic. Pelphrey made the Beach Ball Classic All-Tournament team, Couch won the Sportsmanship Trophy, and junior guard Keith Adkins received the Hustle Award. With the wins in South Carolina, it appeared that Paintsville was starting to play good basketball and could be on its way to the state tournament in March.
The Tigers used their momentum from the Beach Ball Classic to win 17 of their next 18 games, including a huge victory over Clay County, and their talented junior guard Richie Farmer. The momentum carried right on into the post-season where Paintsville won its third consecutive 15th Region title to advance once again to the “Sweet 16.” The region title put Paintsville at 30-4 on the year, becoming only the second 30-win team in the school’s history (the 1943-44 squad finished 31-5). Asked about the team’s chances at the state tournament Coach Runyon replied, “I honestly feel like we’re better prepared. We’ve played a tremendous schedule this season. More than anything that will help us in the state tournament.” Coach Runyon also reflected on the careers of his seniors to the Paintsville Herald, gushing about what they had done for the program. “These kids have done an awful lot for Paintsville High School and for basketball in eastern Kentucky. They’ve established a tradition for basketball in Paintsville.”