Photos by Rylan Meadows
By Evan Kinser Feb 26, 2019 9:26 pm EST
The Powell County Pirates have knocked off Letcher County Central off of a Nate Skidmore and-1 that gave them the one point edge. The game was a thrilling one, with each team going on quick runs throughout the game, but the Pirates found new life late in the fourth.
After Powell County missed two free throws with under a minute left to play, it looked like the Pirates would end their season on a bad note. There was a foul called on the Pirates that put the Cougars on the line with just 22.2 seconds left to play. Hoping for a miss, the Pirates got what they had hoped for. Letcher first shot: good. Letcher second shot: no good.
The Pirates had their unlikely chance down by just one. Letcher Central was not in range of foul trouble so the Cougars decided to foul quickly to get the Pirates out of rhythm and cut down time on the clock. The Pirates saw this and quickly tried to attack and get a shot off, finding the hot hand of Colby Cook in the corner, looking for his fifth triple of the game. Colby had a good look but came up short, right into the hands of Nathan Skidmore.
Nate is a superb athlete, being a star on the baseball team and has also signed to play collegiate football at EKU. He reached in the air, grabbed the ball, looked for his options, and finally as time was running short he scored and drew the foul.
The Pirates tied the game!
Nate has already had his clutch moment this season, with a three-point game winner against Owsley County on January 15th. With the fate of the game in Skidmore’s hands, he calmly drilled the free throw. Pirates by one.
This is where the great coaching of first year head coach Blake Williams comes into play. With the Cougars set to inbound the ball under the opposite basket, Williams instructed his team to pressure the ball but make sure they do not commit a foul. Christian Parks used all of his length to pressure the on the inbound and forced a full court heave at an attempt to win. Senior Bryce Merion deflected the pass and the Pirates walked away with a win.
A great game from the Pirates all the way through, leading at the end of each quarter except the third as the Cougars outscored them 10 to 4. Their struggles in the third quarter did not discourage the team and instead sparked an entertaining fourth quarter.
Colby Cook and Chimaobi Ajuonuma-Creed had great games, Cook drilling down 4 three-pointers and Chimaobi getting scores in the paint at will along with several deflections on defense throughout the game.
Point guard Dashaun Williams and forward Bryce Merion also had great games. Though they did not score the ball all that much, they impacted the game through their leadership, defense, and ball movement.
Overall, this was an encouraging win for the Pirates and only increases their confidence. Winners in 10 of their last 13 games, the Pirates will be a tough out for any team they face in the coming days.
By Evan Kinser Feb 26, 2019, 3:20pm EST
The Powell County Pirates have experienced two of their best seasons in the past two years, and part of that is due to the Class of 2019. So far three seniors have signed with colleges to play college football, and it is expected that more will be joining them. The latest to join them in signing on to play college football is quarterback Jon Brooks. Brooks, a starter since his freshman season, will be playing for the University of the Cumberlands next season.
Jon has been the quarterback on two district championship winning teams and his junior year the team was runner-up in the regional playoffs. Success in Powell County for football is hard to come by, but the Pirates have seemed to figure it out recently.
The Pirates record was 9-3 this season, the best mark in school history. Last year they earned an 8-5 record, which is extremely rare for Powell County. When I asked Jon about what was different with this team over previous years, he said, “I really feel like in the weight room this group of seniors really made it their own. Before, I feel like kids would take out reps but this year we really strived in the weight room. We just really had a lot of drive to better ourselves as a team. “
The team’s success was no secret as several college programs took notice of members of the team. Nate Skidmore signed with EKU, Caleb Fraley signed with Pikeville, and there are several still considering their options. Just like in the weight room, these players plan to remain committed and work to improve their skills. Jon in particular, knows that he has a long road to go before he is where he wants to be. “Just signing isn’t where I want to be, ultimately I want to be the starter and just get better while I am there and grow as a person in total. I am excited to be there, it is a great program and a great school.”
Jon’s brother, Matt, played for UC as quarterback so there is a tie to the program in that regard. When asked if his brother has helped him throughout this process, Jon said, “He has probably really been the biggest coach I have ever had. Between him and Coach Wood, they really have taught me most of the things I know and helped me get to the place I am today as a quarterback and as a leader on the field. He has been very helpful and inspirational throughout this process.”
The University of the Cumberlands is getting a player that will work as hard as he possibly can, and Jon has the experience as a four-year starter to turn some heads in the program. All of Powell County will be rooting for Jon as he attempts to improve not only his skills on the field, but also to take that “Pirate” spirit to the UC Patriots. I am sure he will do just that.
This season for the Powell County Pirates has been up and down, but recently the Pirates have been playing some of their best ball of the season, winning six of their last seven games. They have faced injuries, a tough schedule, and even a coaching change. Through all this, it hasn’t stopped the Pirates on their pursuit of a district tournament championship and a trip to the 14th Region tournament though, as they have locked up the top seed for the district. Through all of their adversities, new Pirates coach Blake Williams has found a way to turn this season around.
Williams, a former Knott County Central assistant coach, has always loved the game of basketball. Though at first he didn’t think he would go into coaching, as he was finishing college he realized he wanted to coach and hasn’t looked back since.
Basketball isn’t the most important thing in his life either. He is a devout Christian and he says his relationship with Jesus Christ is the most important thing in his life. His wife (Kelsey) and his daughter (Hallie Blake), are his biggest fans and they mean everything to him.
I sat down with Coach Williams recently to discuss his first year in Powell County, here is our conversation below:
EK: Before coming to Powell, you were with Knott County Central for 8 years. What made you want to make the move here?
BW: I think the intrigue of the possibility of taking over as head coach of Powell County, a school I have always had a lot of respect for. It is a great location in the region and they are always competitive, so it was intriguing all around.
EK: So when you came here, you thought there was a good chance you could one day become head coach?
BW: I wasn’t really sure about what the exact time frame of that was, but I thought it could be a possibility within a season or two.
EK: You started this year as the assistant coach of the Pirates and have since been named interim head coach. How has this experience been for you so far?
BW: It has been a great experience so far. We’ve had some success in the last eight games and it’s given me a lot more experience. It’s just been great all around.
EK: There is a big difference in being the lead assistant and in being head coach. How have you handled the extra pressure and responsibility?
BW: It’s not been so much the extra responsibility and pressure, I’ve been in this situation before. I was co-interim head coach at Knott County Central while the head coach was out for a little while, so I’ve had a lot of experience with that. I use that experience to go with what I’m doing now.
EK: The Pirates struggled to start the season, going 3-11, but since you have taken over you are 6-1. What has changed for the team?
BW: I think it’s all with the boys. With all our players, they realize what they are capable of doing and actually going out there and proving that to themselves and all the other teams in the region as well.
EK: You had only one loss in district play, and have secured the #1 seed in the tournament. How do you feel about your chances in the tourney?
BW: Well I really feel like that if we continue to play to the level we are playing at right now and continue to improve our defense, we have a really good shot to win the district this year.
In Williams, the Pirates now have their coach for the future and all signs point to a very successful tenure with the team. He will surely do all he can to turn the Pirates into regional contenders soon and continue to keep them competitive now and for years to come.