TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY
By John Stepp For The Times Tribune
It will be the tale of two completely opposite basketball programs this Friday night when the Williamsburg Yellow Jackets travel to Gilliam Gymnasium to take on the Corbin Redhounds in the 50th District Championship.
For the Yellow Jackets, it's been 16 years since they played in the district finals. For Corbin, they will be playing for their sixth title in as many years.
Williamsburg reached the finals for the first time since 1998, with a 53-51 win over the top-seed South Laurel. With their biggest win in over a decade behind them, Patrick Robinson's squad will have to find a way to keep his players focused on the next game at hand.
“I think the kids will be ready. We are focused on trying to win each game out,” said Robinson. “We aren't looking or worried about anything else right now.”
Corbin faces some of the same issues. The Redhounds have won eight straight games, with their last win coming from a Joey Shelton buzzer-beater to advance to play the Yellow Jackets. For Coach Tony Pietrowski, it's not so much keeping his players focused as it is continuing their momentum.
“I look at it as momentum. A month ago we would have folded and lost that game. This team has really turned the corner over the past few weeks,” said Pietrowski. “We are going to embrace the emotion and carry it over to the finals Friday night. Our seniors have seen this in our program over the years and understand the correct way to handle it.”
Based on their regular season results, the Redhounds will be favored Friday night. Corbin defeated the Yellow Jackets 51-46 at home and 79-54 at Williamsburg. But, in both of those wins, the Yellow Jackets were without star guard Skyler Griffith.
Since Griffith's return, Williamsburg has won four straight games and has morphed into a much better team.
“The addition of Skyler has made them extremely talented in a variety of positions. They displayed this balance in the first round of the district,” Pietrowski said. “It will take one of our biggest defensive efforts of the season to come out victorious. We will work towards that over the next two days.”
While having a healthy squad makes the Yellow Jackets a better team, it may have been what they learned throughout the course of the season that has helped them win in the postseason.
“I think that having Skyler back has really helped our team in so many ways that I could tell you — leadership, scoring, defense — you name it and he does it well for us,” said Robinson. “I think not having him had forced our other players to have to fight through certain types of pressures and adversities that are paying off now. We showed so much toughness against South Laurel and I hope we continue that the rest of the season.”