By John Stepp
After falling behind at halftime, the Knox Central Panthers battled back to defeat the Buckhorn Wildcats 64-54 in the opening round of the Williamsburg Holiday Tournament. With the win, the Panthers will face Upperman, Tenn. today in the semifinals.
Knox Central featured a balanced attack in the win with seven players scoring in the game. Sophomore guard Jeffrey Adams led the Panthers with 16 points, while sophomores Matthew Barger and Chad Marsee contributed 15 and 12, respectively.
"I thought in the first half, they played a lot harder than we did and that is what we talked about at halftime. We talked about playing harder," said Knox Central coach Brian Evans. "I thought in the second half we played harder. That is the difference in a lot of these games – who plays harder and who makes more good things happen. After a poor start in that regard, we played a pretty good second half."
After Knox Central jumped out to a 7-6 lead to start the game, the Wildcats went on a 8-0 run to take a 14-7 lead midway through the first quarter and took a 20-13 advantage after one. The Panthers clawed back in the second quarter, limiting Buckhorn to just six points in the period. The Wildcats went into halftime clinging to a 26-25 lead.
Buckhorn's Dylan Cole scored the first four points of the third quarter to give his team a 30-25 lead. The Panthers answered with a 10-2 run to take a 35-32 lead midway through the period. Down 40-38 with just a minute left in the quarter, Knox Central scored six straight to take a 44-40 advantage heading into the final quarter.
The Panthers' big men Marsee and senior center Tobie Merida each scored four points in the third quarter, taking advantage of Buckhorn's lack of size.
"We like to play that way. When we play these teams that only have one big man we want to go to that," said Evans. "It worked well. It was effective and we got a lot of good shots around the rim in the second half. It helped us get the ball to the rim and get to the foul line."
Knox Central scored the first seven points of the fourth quarter, taking a 51-40 lead, and putting the game out of reach. Buckhorn could only get as close as eight in the quarter, as the Panthers won 64-54.
"All in all it was a good win for us. We had some trouble in the first half and had some trouble hitting free throws, but we were able to play well in the second half," said Evans.
Knox Central 64, Buckhorn 54
Knox Central 15 10 19 20 64
Buckhorn 20 6 14 14 54
Knox Central (64) - Adams 16, Barger 15, Marsee 12, Merida 8, Dustin Hensley 7, Jacob Wilburn 4, Brandon Garrison 2
Buckhorn (54) - Cole 19, Caleb Estep 14, Connor Hoskins 8, Ryan Boggs 4, Josh Crank 3, Peyton Cooper 2, James Blair 2