By James Cook, Times Editor
The Powell County Pirates defended their home court and claimed the 2009 Red River Classic championship, but they did with some suspect defense. Thank goodness their offense was clicking, especially from three point range. Led by a stellar three game performance by tourney MVP Christian Brewer and a much needed spark from the bench by Henry Parks, Powell held on to beat Owsley. The Pirates squandered a 12 point lead with four minutes to play to top the Owls, 82-75.
Powell entered the championship game after beating Jackson County (78-68) and Magoffin County (69-66) to take on an Owsley squad that upended Greenup County (61-58) in the semi-finals. The Owls had seen Brewer’s three point range and applied pressure early. The result was some early misfiring by him, but Morgan Reed picked it up and connected on a trio of treys in the first quarter. The Owls were not daunted by the display and led 21-20 after one period.
The second quarter was a shootout. Both sides traded shots and the lead, at least six times. Owsley grabbed a 28-27 lead, and then the Pirates ran up the sails and went to war. Brewer added two baskets with slicing moves through the lane, Reed followed suit and Donovan Nolan battled inside for a bucket to give Powell a 36-28 lead with under a minute to play before halftime.
The Owls would not give up. Behind the strong inside play of Timmy Murrell and the outside shooting of Justin Thompson, Owsley showed why they are considered by some to be the favorite to win the 56th District. In less than 40 seconds, the Owls tied the game as the horn sounded, to make it 36-36.
In the second half Powell came out on fire, but the Owls answered quickly. The schools were still tied at the halfway point of the third period. The Pirates had chances to extend their lead, but too many missed chances and the defense was falling behind as Owlsey’s fast break kept them in the game. Powell led 58-57 entering the final frame.
That trend seemed to continue in the final frame early. Enter Henry Parks. Parks added a spark to the team late in the third quarter with hustle on defense and rebounding. That spark jolted the Pirates offense as well. Carlisle Creech began nailing three pointers, Reed was hitting again from outside, then Brewer found his range again. Powell extended their lead to 74-62 when Austin Monnett came off the bench to score his only points of the game, a dead-on nothing but net three pointer with 4:10 to play in the game.
The Owls fought back. Murrell and Thompson were joined by Tyler Williams, Devan Evans and Marcus Peters as they began a mad rush to catch up. The three’s were falling at first, but then the Owls soaring effort fell short. Powell held on to beat their district counterparts, 82-75. The Pirates claimed the championship for the second time in the tournaments three year history.
Owsley did have a balanced attack with five starters in double figures. Murrell, Evans and Williams each scored 16 points. Peters tossed in 13 and Johnson chipped in 11. The Owls fell to 3-5 and took home the second place honors.
Powell, who is now 8-2 and on a five game winning streak, was led by Brewer with a quiet, yet effective 34 points. Reed poured in 19 and Creech added 14 to the victory. Seven Pirates scored in the game. The free throw line was not too friendly. Powell went 7-for-17, a cool 41 percent; Owsley was 18-of-23 for a much warmer 78 percent.
Powell will now host district foe, Lee County on Friday and travel to Letcher Central on Saturday. The Pirates will be back home on Tuesday, Jan. 12 and hit the road again on Jan. 15 to play Cordia. Powell will host Estill in a showdown on Jan. 22.