By Les Dixon / For the Times-Tribune
KNOX CENTRAL — Brian Evans’ Knox Central Panthers found themselves tied at halftime in a 37-all heavyweight battle with 12th Region foe Boyle County. But what looked like a nip-and-tuck affair turned out to be a Rebels’ double-digit win.
After falling behind 39-37 to open the third quarter, Boyle County connected with six straight three-pointers to build a comfortable 55-42 advantage while cruising to a 62-49 win over the Panthers.
“Give credit to Boyle (County),” Knox Central coach Brian Evans said. “They played an exceptional game. They shot the ball great and they were very solid on both ends of the floor, as they typically are. They just shot the ball exceptionally well.”
Knox Central turned out to be its own worst enemy, though. The Panthers were out-rebounded by the Rebels, and connected on only 12-of-21 attempts from the free-throw line, including a four-of-11 effort from star guard Matt Barger.
Boyle County, on the other hand, turned in an impressive 13-of-16 effort from the free-throw line, including going 11-of-12 in the fourth quarter, while hitting 10-of-14 shot attempts from three-point range.
The Rebels’ Hagan Tyler was also hard to handle. He turned in a game-high 28-point effort to lead his team to the 13-point win.
The game’s first 16 minutes went back-and-forth as the lead changed hands 18 times.
Knox Central built a 14-8 edge in the first quarter after a three-pointer by Jeffrey Adams, but Boyle County closed out the quarter with a 12-6 run while hitting five-of-eight shots attempts to tie the game at 20 apiece heading into the second quarter.
The Rebels built a 24-20 edge a couple of minutes into the second quarter, but the panthers responded with a 6-0 run to take a 26-24 lead with 5:16 remaining in the first half.
It looked as if Boyle County was going to take a 37-35 edge into the locker room at halftime, but after getting fouled on a three-point attempt, Barger hit two-of-three free throw attempts to tie the game at 37 apiece at halftime.
“Even though we were even in the first half, we felt like the first half was our undoing,” Evans said. “We felt like we could have played much better. We were a little flat defensively.
“Most of their points in the first half were off transition layups or off offensive rebounds,” he added. “Those are effort areas. We shored those things up in the second half, however — they just got hot.”
It didn’t take Boyle County long to take control of the game in the third quarter.
The Panthers misfired on five of their first six shots to begin the quarter while the Rebels responded with six consecutive three-pointers, while building a 55-42 advantage at the 3:32 mark. Knox Central cut its deficit to nine points (58-49), but the Rebels closed out the frame with a 4-0 run to take a commanding 62-49 lead into the fourth quarter.
“When we made a mistake, they made a three,” Evans said. “Even when we defended it well, they still made a three.”
Evans’ squad got as close as nine points on a couple of occasions in the game’s final eight minutes, but couldn’t get any closer, as a one-for-six shooting effort from the free-throw line combined with an eight-of-18 shooting effort from the floor hampered any chance of a Knox Central come back.
The Rebels sealed the deal by hitting 11-of-12 free throw attempts during the fourth quarter. Boyle County finished the game connecting on 27-of-54 shot attempts, including a 10-of-14 effort from three-point range while the Panthers were 24-of-62 from the floor and four-of-nine from three-point range.
Knox Central had four players score in double figures with Barger leading the way with 22 points. Adams added 13 while Brandon Hensley and Chad Marsee each scored 12 points apiece.
“We have some things we have to do better,” Evans said. “We are in it to be playing our best at the end of the season. We can’t get to low after this and can’t get to high after a win. We just need to keep plugging along and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Boyle County 77, Knox Central 66
Boyle County 20 17 25 15 – 77
Knox Central 20 17 12 17 – 66
Boyle County (77) – Roney 3, Hinkle 7, Robbins 9, Ray 17, Tyler 28, McGhee 13.
Knox Central (66) – Barger 22, Adams 13, Hensley 12, Marsee 12, Cole 7.