By Evan Kinser, March 1st, 2019 5:08 pm EST
The Powell County Pirates boys basketball team is coming off a huge victory over Letcher County Central in their first game of the regional tournament Tuesday night. Now down to just four teams in the tournament, Powell is set for a showdown with regional power Hazard on Friday night at 8 PM.
Hazard is feeling the momentum after their overtime victory over regional favorite Breathitt County. After trailing by 9 points in the third quarter, they responded to keep the game tight for the rest of the way. Perhaps the most impressive part of their victory over Breathitt is how they played in overtime. It is rare for a team to outscore another by 11 points in an overtime period, and Hazard did just that.
Powell County is also feeling momentum after Nate Skidmore’s game winning free throw against Letcher County Central on Tuesday night. With just one second left on the game clock, Skidmore hit a three foot shot and drew the foul to tie the game. Nate knocked down the free throw to give the Pirates the one point edge, and Letcher Central failed to score far on the opposite baseline.
Powell County head coach Blake Williams thinks that the victory over Letcher Central will help them for their next game, “It gave us confidence in that we can beat any team in the region because Letcher was considered a top-5 team.” This added confidence could do wonders for the Pirates.
There could also be added confidence because starting center Chimaobi Ajuonuma-Creed missed the first matchup against Hazard, the third game of the season. To say that Powell County has grown since the last time they played is an understatement.
In the last thirteen games, the Pirates have won ten and a lot of that has to do with coach Williams. “Since coach Williams has taken over, we have a new confidence about us,” said senior Bryce Merion, “He really believes in us and always has us ready to play.” For players to have full confidence in their coach is a testament to the job that Williams has done in his short time as head coach.
Hazard will be a tough matchup for the Pirates because they are strong at each position. Bryce Merion knows this, “Hazard is a really tough team. They have a really solid point guard in Wade Pelfrey, really good slashers in Austin Bennett and Johnson, and two of the best bigs in the region in Logan Hall and Reece Fletcher.” He also knows that Hazard head coach will be a big factor in this game, “They are really hard to prepare for because they execute their plays so well. Of course, everyone knows about their coach Al Holland – he is one of the best coaches in the region and he will have them ready to go.” Coach Williams agrees with this, “You really can’t overthink it against a good scoring team, you just have to have confidence in your player’s defensive ability.
The home-court advantage has played a role for the Pirates this season, winning 7 of their 12 home games. Of their 5 home losses, the largest margin of defeat was just 12 points which was against Lexington school Tates Creek in the second game of the season. Bryce Merion thinks that being at home can have an affect on the game, “I think that since the game is here, anything can happen.”
Going against Hazard will be a tough test for the Pirates, but Powell County has shown recently that they can win these tough games. Expect a close game but also high scoring. The Pirates will try to push and score more points in this game than against Letcher, so that could have a big impact on the outcome of this game.
Regardless of the outcome, the Pirates have played great basketball this season and have excited this community.