Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

March 8, 2014

Boys 16th Region: Greenup slays Vikings, 60-54 (with photos, video)

MOREHEAD — Harold Tackett keeps telling anyone who will listen that his teams tend to peak this time of year.

At this point, who can argue?

Greenup County extended its late-season renaissance to four straight victories by stunning Rowan County 60-54 in the 16th Region Tournament quarterfinals on Saturday evening in Ellis T. Johnson Arena.

The Musketeers (13-15), who toppled favored Lewis County in the 63rd District finals, earned their first region tournament win since 2006. The Vikings’ three-season string of trips to the region finals concluded.

Greenup County used a 13-0 run midway through the fourth quarter to turn a six-point deficit into a seven-point edge, holding Rowan County (21-11) scoreless for just over three and a half minutes in the process.

“This is a really simple game. It’s not complicated,” Tackett said. “It comes down to players executing, and we felt good about it even when we got down a little bit, and I knew I had confidence in my team, especially defensively.”

He added with a grin: “And the eighth-grader knocks down free throws. Ice-water.”

That would be Gage Hughes, who finished with a game-high 22 points. He went 4-for-5 from 3-point range and drained all eight of his charity tosses — all in the fourth quarter.

“I was feelin’ it,” the mohawked guard said with a big smile.

The Vikings were not “feelin’ it.” They shot 32.3 percent from the field for the game, including a 25.7-percent effort in the first half and 6-for-27 — 22.2 percent —from beyond the arc.

“We didn’t make shots consistently enough, and we had opportunities to kind of build a lead there, and we let it get away, and next thing you know you’re behind,” Rowan County coach Shawn Thacker said. “They’ve got size to run you off the 3-point line and contest your 3-point shots.”

Jherrell Jackson and Robbie Dillon each added 12 points for the Musketeers. Jair Jackson had 16 rebounds, and Brandon Johnson added eight boards.

Justin Graham and Ryne Callahan pitched in 13 points apiece for Rowan County.

The Vikings were up 43-37 after Brandon Moore scored inside with 4:30 to go in the third quarter. But that was Rowan County’s last points until Tyler Thacker hit two free throws with 59.3 seconds remaining.

Meanwhile, the Musketeers racked up 13 straight points, beginning with Jair Jackson’s bucket in the post. Hughes’s 3 with 3:42 to go put Greenup County ahead to stay. Christian Wireman came off the bench to drain another triple 67 seconds later and cut loose an emphatic fist-pump.

The Musketeers can be forgiven for getting a little excited, since their senior class was in fourth grade the last time Greenup County won a region tournament game, and four of their top seven players are underclassmen.

Doesn’t matter. They still plan on continuing to do big things in Morehead — this week, not next year or in the future.

“We’re not here to gain experience,” Tackett said. “We’re here to win the thing, and if we don’t, that’s OK. But no, we haven’t ever used the words, ‘Let’s get experience.’ We’ve always used the words, ‘Let’s play each possession as hard as we can.’”

As for Rowan County, it says goodbye to a senior class that has had a say in who goes to Rupp Arena from the 16th Region the past few seasons and finished 8-2 in Johnson Arena.

But Shawn Thacker isn’t ready to give up on his team’s future.

“I don’t think we’ll have to rebuild, I think we’ll reload,” he said. “I think we’ve got a nucleus of a team that could be a top-25 team. We’ve got to get better at some things … but I like the nucleus of the kids we got back, and we’ll take a few weeks off and we’ll start looking forward to next year.”

ZACK KLEMME can be reached at zklemme@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2658.

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