By John Stepp For The Times Tribune
MANCHESTER — The Knox Central Panthers traveled to Manchester on Tuesday night and handed the Clay County Tigers a 66-61 loss – their first of the year to a 13th Region opponent.
Panthers’ center Chad Marsee was the deciding factor in the game, scoring 21 points and pulling down 10 rebounds.
“Chad (Marsee) can play with anybody in the region – there is no doubt about it,” said Knox Central Coach Brian Evans. “He established himself last year and he played well for us tonight. Chad was very effective down there and just played a heck of a game.”
Marsee was not the only contributor for the Panthers, as four of their five starters scored in double figures. Dustin Hensley scored 16 points for Knox Central, while Matthew Barger and Jeffrey Adams added 13 and 12 points, respectively.
To start the game, the Panthers jumped out to an early 12-8 lead, as Jeffrey Adams and Dustin Hensley each knocked down shots from behind the arc. Clay County responded by going on a 10-2 run to finish the quarter. Tigers' point guard Tyler McDaniel kept his team alive in the quarter, scoring 12 points and knocking down two three-point shots.
Knox Central fought back in the second quarter. After Clay County’s Jake Allen left the game with foul trouble, Marsee went to work for the Panthers. The sophomore center scored nine of his game high 21 points in the quarter, as Knox Central was able to cut the Tigers' lead to 32-31 heading into halftime.
“This was a real gutsy effort by our team tonight. Jeffrey Adams was battling the flu and Nate Cole had some stomach issues at halftime, but they really played their tails off,” said Evans. “This was a good road win for us. I’m very proud of our players.”
The first two minutes of the third quarter proved to be the turning point in the game, as the Panthers scored the first six points of the half and never relinquished the lead after that. Knox Central used a great defensive effort to outscore the Tigers 17-13 in the third quarter, taking a 48-45 lead into the fourth.
The Tigers clawed back into the game in the fourth quarter. McDaniel opened the scoring with a three-point basket, to tie the game at 48-48. It would be the last points of the game for McDaniel, as Knox Central held the Clay Count point guard to just three points after the first quarter.
“We were able to mix our defenses a little in the second half between man and zone, and still try to guard them the way we described in the scouting report,” said Evans. “We tried to get everyone accounted for and tried to be there on the guys who could make shots. The guys just did a great job. I’m really proud of them and happy for them.”
The Panthers would score the next six points to go ahead 54-48, and never look back. Clay County’s Blake Smith tried his best to get the Tigers back in the game, scoring eight points in the quarter, but it wouldn’t be enough, as the Panthers prevailed 66-61.
Knox Central will return to action Friday, as they host Bell County. Clay County will host Boyd County on Saturday.
Knox Central 66, Clay Co. 61
Knox Central 14 17 17 18 – 66
Clay County 18 14 13 16 – 61
Knox Central (66) – Marsee 21, Hensley 16, Barger 13, Adams 12, Nate Cole 4
Clay County (61) – Smith 17, McDaniel 15, Allen 13, Trey Farmer 9, Ryan House 5, Wes Wolfe 2