By Les Dixon
HARLAN COUNTY — Tony Pietrowski’s Corbin Redhounds have been flying under the 13th Region radar throughout the season, but not any more.
The Redhounds asserted themselves as serious contenders for the 13th Region championship Monday after taking Harlan County’s best punch in the first half while falling behind by as many as 16 points in the first half before recovering to knock off the Black Bears, 74-70.
Corbin turned in an impressive second half effort that saw the Redhounds turn the ball over only two times while forcing Mike Jones’ squad into 11 miscues during the game’s final 16 minutes.
After shooting five-of-18 from the floor during the third quarter, Corbin settled down and played a mistake-free fourth quarter by knocking down seven-of-11 shot attempts from the floor and an impressive 11-of-14 effort from the free-throw line.
“We needed this game. I think for us to win another regional title we'll have to go through a team that plays this kind of physical style,” Corbin coach Tony Pietrowski said. “We haven't seen this probably since Clay County early in the season. You can't really simulate in practice.”
Things were totally opposite for Harlan County. The Black Bears led 45-34 at the end of the first half thanks to a red-hot 19-of-31 shooting, but 11-of-31 shooting effort in the second half combined with a three-of-10 effort from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter allowed the Redhounds to take command of the game.
“I’m really concerned about our kids’ toughness. They just out-toughed us. When we got our hands on a rebound they just took it. They beat us to every ball,” said Harlan County coach Mike Jones. “We just got outplayed. They deserved to win the game. Our kids are going to have to be tougher. We had one or two players that showed a little emotion. You could tell their kids wanted it with the emotion they were playing with.”
Harlan County took a 57-48 advantage into the fourth quarter and Pietrowski’s squad didn’t take its first lead of the contest until the 3:29 mark of the fourth quarter and Hunter Grubb’s three-pointer with 3:03 remaining sparked a 7-0 run as Corbin never looked back.
It was a total team effort for the Redhounds.
Zach Farley was clutch at the free-throw loine down the stretch and hit seven-of-eight free throw attempts during the final eight minutes while Kevin Goins continues to shine off the bench by leading Corbin with a 17-points. Robbie Igo kept his team in the game at the beginning of the fourth quarter with four straight points while Trevor Hill recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.Corey Shelton also added an improtant old-fashioned three-point play in the third quarter that cut his team’s deficit under 10 points.
"Their physicality really knocked us back on our heels, and they gapped us early," Pietrowski said. "I thought the momentum changed a little bit at the end of the half. If there is a better sixth man in the region I'd like to see him. He has come into a lot of games and really sparked us. He has a lot of moxie and kind of turned the tide. He got aggressive and the rest of the kids kind of followed suit."
Just how dominant was Corbin’s second half effort?
The Redhounds outscored the 13th Region preseason favorite 40-25, including 26-13 in the fourth quarter.
"We kind of had to force our hand with the way the game was going," PIetrowski said. "We decided we had to go more up-tempo. I think both teams played real hard, even though both will probably say they didn't execute as well as they wanted to. I thought the effort was good by both teams."
Pietrowski’s squad finished the game connecting on 26-of-59 shot attempts from the floor and 17-of-23 attempts from the free-throw line while Harlan County hit 30-of-61 shot attempts, but only turned in a 12-of-23 effort at the free-throw line.
“These kids are playing 16 minutes and taking off 16 minutes. You aren’t going to win many games playing like that,” said Jones. “Until we put a complete game together and play with a little emotion like it matters — if they are saving anything I hope they find it by next Monday night, or it could be over by Monday night.”
Corbin 74, Harlan County 70
Corbin 17 17 14 26 74
Harlan County 19 26 12 13 70
Corbin (74) — Zach Farley 11, Kaleb Maguet 5, Trevor Hill 10, Hunter Grubb 16, Robbie Igo 9, Joey Shelton 3, Zach Henson 0, Kevin Goins 17, Connor Hopkins 0, Taylor Waddle 0.
Harlan County (70) — Tyler Brewer 15, Alex Sergent 0, Chad Massingill 9, Aaron Caldwell 15, Tyler Miller 19, Zach Caldwell 8, Cody Bumgardner 4, James Bond 0, Fred Massey 0.