The nightcap of Monday’s 13th Region Tournament didn’t feature the dramatics that accompanied the upset in the opener. 49th District champion Clay County ended much of the suspense in the first half on its way to a 91-64 victory over Barbourville.
“This team is hungry. Two years ago, we got beat in overtime in the semifinals and they got beat in overtime in the finals last year. We see this as another opportunity to play and rectify what happened last year,” said Clay County coach Robert Marcum.
Devin Mills put Barbourville on his back in the first quarter. The senior guard poured in 17 of his 33 points in the opening period to put his team in front 22-21.
“Devin is one of the better players in the region. He ended up with 33 points, but he should have had more,” said Barbourville Dinky Phipps. “We didn’t execute when they went to chasing him the way we do in practice.”
The teams traded baskets throughout the first eight minutes, with neither leading by more than six points. Clay County relied on a balanced attack to keep pace. Stephon Lyttle and Jarrod Rice each had five points to lead six scorers.
“Anytime you are one or two points down, if you can keep that game tight, anything can happen in the end. We wanted to keep it close and maybe make a run at the end,” Phipps said. “We did what we wanted to do in the first quarter, but I don’t think we did what we wanted to do the rest of the game.”
Clay County contained Mills in the second quarter, as it built an eight-point halftime lead.
“We started out in a 1-2-2. We didn’t want to chase him off the bat and get him working hard. We basically played a 1-2-2 and sagged a little bit and he ate us up,” Marcum said. “So, we started chasing him and trying to limit his touches. Once we went to that defense things started to go our way.”
On the offensive end, Tyler McDaniel began to heat up from the perimeter. The sophomore point guard hit three treys and recorded 11 points in the period to lift Clay to a 39-31 advantage at the break. McDaniel finished with 27 points to pace the Tigers.
“(Tyler) is a good player. He is a guy that handles the ball for us and is very intelligent,” Marcun said.
An offensive rebound putback from Zack Strong pulled Barbourville to within two midway through the second quarter, but Clay responded with eight straight points from that point as it began to take control.
Senior Kody Reed joined the perimeter attack after the half. Reed drained a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter, while McDaniel added another. Clay County had four players with at least five points in a 28-point outburst in the period. Reed led all scorers with eight points as Clay’s lead grew to 67-51.
“We broke down and quit playing defense. We knew who the shooters were. We have watched them play as much as they have watched us play. We just didn’t get out on them,” Phipps said.
Clay County continued to pull away in the final period. McDaniel had 10 more points as Clay outscored Barbourville 24-13 in the fourth quarter to cruise to the win.
Clay County (24-6) will face Middlesboro in the 13th Region semifinals on Friday. The Tigers won 78-53 at Middlesboro late in the regular season.
“It is going to be a very good ball game. We were able to get a win down there on their senior night, but I know we were dead-legged on our senior night. It will be a total different game down here,” Marcum said. “They beat an outstanding team in Corbin. They are very athletic and quick and like to play uptempo.”
Barbourville closes the season at 19-12.
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Clay County (91) —Tyler McDaniel 27, Jarrod Rice 10, Kody Reed 18, Stephon Lyttle 13, Marty Bowling 16, Blake Smith 0, Wes Wolfe 5, Christian McNeal 0, Travis Smith 2, Blake Rojas 0, Trevor Sams 0, Ryan Holland 0, Charlie Gabbard 0, Travis Mills 0.
Barbourville (64) —Tanner Moore 6, Devin Mills 33, Alexander Phipps 11, Zack Strong 7, Jason Mills 2, Brentley Perry 0, Jaxon McWilliams 0, Jacob Rose 0, Austin Eldridge 0, Alex Payton 0, Kevin Engle 2, Austin Eldridge 3, Trevor Mills 0, Collin Grubb 0.