The Powell County Pirates had high hopes before the season started, as do most high school basketball teams. But after a bad start, injuries and a mid-season coaching change, many thought if they could make the regional tournament it would take a miracle.
Not sure if it was a miracle, but Coach Blake Williams had the Pirates turned around down the stretch. So much so that they won the district in an impressive come from behind fashion and played quite the host for last week’s 14th Region Tournament.
But the dream of making a full turnaround fell short. Powell did avenge a close loss to Letcher Central by beating them with ease and last second heroics in the first round. But The Pirates fell to Hazard in the semifinals, bringing the season to a close.
In the opening round last Monday Powell took on the 53rd District Runner-Ups, the Letter Central Cougars. Just two weeks prior the Cougars escaped Stanton with a 56-52 victory. But on this night Powell was ready and wanted to have a good showing.
Powell started the game inspired. The Pirates opened with a cutback basket by Chimaobi Ajuonuma-Creed, a three pointer from Colby Cook and a driving baseline bucket by DaShaun Williams. Powell jumped out to a 7-0 lead. But the Cougars bounced back from being punched on the mouth early and made a run at the Pirates. When Gregory Kincer nailed two free throws the Cougars took a 12-11 lead late in the first quarter.
Powell answered quickly. Cook connected on another trey as time was running down. Then Williams hit a one handed floater in the lane as the horn sounded. Powell held a 16-12 lead after one quarter.
Powell held on to a slim lead throughout the rest of the half. The Pirates picked up nine points in the second quarter, with Creed scoring seven of those. As the half finished Bryce Merion hit a 12- foot baseline jumper. Powell held a 25-22 lead.
The third frame saw Powell get a little reckless and missing some open shots. The Cougars seized the missed Pirates opportunities. Fouls were also beginning to pile up. The Cougars clawed their way back and took the lead 32-29 as the two teams entered the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter became a flurry of action between the two teams. The lead changed hands seven times as both squads were fighting for a chance to keep their season alive. As the game was reaching the end, free throws hurt and helped both teams. Down the stretch both teams missed opportunities on the line.
That trend looked to come a disappointing end for Powell when Letcher’s Caleb Stidham hit one of two charity tosses with :22 to play to make it 46-44. Powell needed a good plan and called time out with :11 to go in the game.
The play looked simple. The ball went to Cook for a three point attempt. But the shot was short and it looked like there were only Cougar defenders awaiting the rebound. In stepped Powell’s Nate Skidmore.
Skidmore grabbed the ball and muscled the it back up, while being fouled. The shot went in to tie the score with :01 to play. After a Cougar timeout to try to ice Skidmore, the senior stepped to the line and sealed a Powell victory when the ball went through the net to make it 47-46. A baseball pass down floor was broken up by Merion to put an exclamation mark on the win.
Powell was led by Cook with 14 points. Creed chipped in 11, all of those in the first half. Merion scored eight, Willams and Skidmore each added six points to the cause. Christian Parks came off the bench to score two.
The semifinal game against the Hazard Bulldogs last Friday was not as much fun for the Pirates. The Bulldogs jumped all over Powell, scoring the first nine points of the game. They built that lead- up from 13 to 15-2. With the speed of their guards and inside dominance, it was all Hazard from start to finish.
The Bulldogs cruised to a 41-14 halftime lead. Powell did manage to pull to within 36-26 late in the third quarter with a quick run. But the Bulldogs answered the run.The Pirates just could not get over the hump. Another run in the final frame made it 45-37 with 4:41 to play.
But the Bulldogs would outscore Powell 13-2 down the stretch. The Pirates’ dreams of being the surprise of the tournament came to a halt. Powell fell to Hazard, 58-39.
Powell was led by Williams with a game high 22 points and was the only Pirate in double figures. Creed scored nine, Skidmore added four, Luke Pasley hit a trey and Cook addd two points.
Williams and Creed were named to the 14th Region All-Tournament Team. Williams was also honored for reaching the 1,000 Point Club.
The Pirates ended the season with a 13-15 record, which seemed like a dream after starting the season 3-12. But hard work and a belief in Coach Williams helped end the season on a 10-3 run.