By John Middleton
For the Times-Tribune
HARLAN COUNTY — The nightcap of Monday’s 13th Region Tournament didn’t feature the dramatics that accompanied the upset in the opener. Clay County, 49th District Champion, ended much of the suspense in the first half on its way to a 91-64 victory over Barbourville.
“This team is hungry. Two years ago, we got beat in overtime in the semifinals and they got beat in overtime in the finals last year. We see this as another opportunity to play and rectify what happened last year,” said Clay County coach Robert Marcum.
Devon Mills put Barbourville on his back in the first quarter. The senior guard poured in 17 of his 33 points in the opening period to put his team in front 22-21.
“Devon is one of the better players in the region. He ended up with 33 points, but he should have had more,” said Barbourville Dinky Phipps. “We didn't execute when they went to chasing him the way we do in practice.”
The teams traded baskets throughout the first eight minutes, with neither leading by more than six points. Clay County relied on a balanced attack to keep pace. Stephon Lyttle and Jarrod Rice each had five points to lead six scorers.
“Anytime you are one or two points down, if you can keep that game tight, anything can happen in the end. We wanted to keep it close and maybe make a run at the end,” Phipps said. “We did what we wanted to do in the first quarter, but I don't think we did what we wanted to do the rest of the game.”
Clay County contained Mills in the second quarter, as it built an eight-point halftime lead.
Senior Kody Reed joined the perimeter attack after the half. Reed drained a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter, while McDaniel added another. Clay County had four players with at least five points in a 28-point outburst in the period. Reed led all scorers with eight points as Clay’s lead grew to 67-51.
“We broke down and quit playing defense. We knew who the shooters were. We have watched them play as much as they have watched us play. We just didn't get out on them,” Phipps said.
Clay County continued to pull away in the final period. McDaniel had 10 more points as Clay outscored Barbourville 24-13 in the fourth quarter to cruise to the win.
13th Region Boys Tournament at Harlan County High School
Clay County 91, Barbourville 64
Barbourville 22 9 20 13 64
Clay County 21 18 28 24 91
Clay County (91) – McDaniel 27, Rice 10, Reed 18, Lyttle 13, Bowling 16, Wolfe 5, Smith 2.
Barbourville (64) – Moore 6, Devon Mills 33, Phipps 11, Strong 7, Jason Mills 2, Engle 2, Eldridge 3.