By DOUG EADS
STANFORD — Survive and advance.
When it comes to post season play in basketball at any level, you hear that phrase bounced around quite a bit.
In a win or go home proposition, living to play another day is the bottom line when it comes to post season hoops.
And on Monday night at Lincoln County High School in the opening round of the Boy’s 12th Regional Basketball Tournament, the Pulaski County Maroons did just that — PC lived to fight another day.
John Fraley’s club certainly didn’t bring its ‘A’ game to the first night of the regional tourney, but after an ice-cold first half shooting the basketball, the Maroons heated up at the right time to hold back a determined McCreary Central Raider basketball team.
KJ Combs hit 4-8 shots from downtown — scoring a game-high 20 points in the process — as PC held back McCreary Central 60-38, to advance to Friday night’s semi finals of the tournament.
“I told our kids before that game that when you get here (regional tournament), everybody can play,” stated a very happy coach Fraley after the contest.
“You have got to treat every game like you’re playing against the best,” added the Pulaski County head coach. “I thought we played very hard and were trying to do the right things in the first half, but we maybe were trying just too hard. I told them at halftime to just calm down, keep running our stuff, and let’s not get away from what we can do. We came out and executed a little better in the second half, and got some better looks, and that’s why we shot a better percentage.”
Pulaski County — early on at least — was simply ice cold from the floor, shooting just 34.8 percent from the field in the opening half of play, hitting on 8-23 field goal attempts.
McCreary Central meanwhile wasn’t much better, but Wade Davis’ club was right in this one against the Maroons, only trailing PC 24-18 at the half.
In the second half — at the beginning of the third period — the Maroons came out and punched the Raiders in the mouth attempting to land the knockout punch, and while it looked as if that was indeed going to happen, McCreary Central would not go away.
After Pulaski County took its biggest lead — at that time — of the game late in the third period at 36-21, the Raiders stormed right back.
Down 15 points with just over two minutes left in the third stanza, McCreary Central ended the frame on an 11-2 run, to only trail PC 38-32 headed into the fourth quarter.
“McCreary Central had evolved into a team that could get into the lane against about anybody they went up against,” stated Fraley.
“We watched them in the district tournament in the finals against Wayne County, and they got into the lane anytime they wanted to,” pointed out the Maroons coach. “I thought our kids did a good job tonight of keeping them out of the lane, and we did a good job of rebounding. Any time you hold a team to just 38 points in a regional tournament, that’s pretty good.”
With the Raiders riding all the momentum headed into the fourth quarter of play, only trailing PC by that 38-32 margin, it was time for the Maroons to answer the call, and Fraley’s club did just that.
PC held McCreary Central to just six points over the game’s final eight minutes, outscoring the Raiders 22-6 in the final frame, to blow this one wide open with the 60-38 final margin of victory.
And, it was PC’s offensive execution that allowed the Maroons to finally put this contest away.
After not shooting very well at all in the opening half of play, Pulaski County shot a torrid, 62.5 percent from the field after the intermission, hitting on 15 of 24 field goal attempts.
KJ Combs led the way with those four, three-point baskets and a game-high 20 points, while Grant Oaks added 12 points in the win, and freshman Zach Travis came off the PC bench to chip in with 10 points.
The Maroons — 20-11 on the season with the win — advances to Friday night’s semi finals, where Pulaski County will meet up with the 28-5 Danville Admirals.
Danville punched its ticket to Friday’s semi’s, by winning Monday night’s first game, with a hard-fought, 57-54 win over West Jessamine.
Friday night’s semi finals will get underway from Lincoln County High School beginning at 6:30 p.m., and the championship game of the tourney will tip off on Saturday evening at 7 p.m.