CORBIN — Corbin coach Tony Pietrowski and his Redhounds have stayed true with what Pietrowski terms a “process” the entire season.
Even when his team was staring at a 48-42 deficit to Knox Central with 4:31 remaining in the 13th Region Boys Tournament Semifinal matchup, he still had good reason to believe his team stick to the “process”, and rally.
The Redhounds didn’t let Pietrowski down.
In what could be best described as a fast and furious final minute and a half in regulation, Corbin’s Brody Barton hit two free throws to trigger a 9-2 run while also drawing a charge call allowing the Redhounds to knock off tournament-favorite Knox Central, 55-52.
Barton’s free throws cut Corbin’s deficit to 50-48 with 1:24 remaining, and the Redhounds then proceeded to get multiple defensive stops, including Barton drawing a charge with close to 10 seconds remaining, as junior star Andrew Taylor took over. Taylor scored the final seven points for Corbin, keeping the Redhounds’ hopes of winning their first 13th Region championship since 2010 alive.
“We kept our composure enough to give ourselves a chance to get back in it, and you know we’ve talked about believing in the process,” Pietrowski said. “Somebody will step up and make a play. I’ll have to go back and watch the film, but Brody Barton taking the charge was huge for us, and stepping up and making the foul shots was huge for us, and Andrew down the line just took over like Andrew does.
“It means a lot,/” he added about his team getting the win. “I don’t have any problem in saying it. Knox Central and Corbin is a big rivalry, so for us coming out on the winning side, it means something to me, it means something to the program, and it means something to our fan base We are excited about it. The thing now is we can’t exhale as a team. We’ve got to regroup, we’ve got to regather and continue the process and understand to enjoy this one, but they’re still things and goals that we want to obtain down the road.”
Knox Central came into the contest averaging a 13th Region-best 79 points per game, but could never get going on offense. The Panthers’ 52 points were the lowest output Tony Patterson’s squad had scored the entire season. They also saw their 15-game win streak snapped in the process, and finished the game hitting on only 18-of-38 shot attempts, including a 2-of-4 effort from 3-point range.
“I think it’s a testament to we’ve played really good defense all year,” Pietrowski said. “I think it’s overlooked because of our ability to score, and some of the things that Andrew does. So sometimes you lose sight of that. Our kids have really bought into defending and rebounding. We’ve talked about you’ve got to win some games that you don’t make a few shots, and things aren’t going your way. I think our kids really just kept sticking their nose in there, giving themselves a chance, and in the end coming out victorious.”
“I felt (one) key was the pace of play,” he added. “I didn’t know what the score total would be as much as the pace we wanted to play at. It wasn’t really like slow down or speed up, it was for feel. Hat’s off to Andrew for believing in that and buying into that because he could have easily tried to get up and down the floor. He believed in what we were trying to do and I think it helped us get the win.”
Pietrowski also noted the important of limiting Knox Central to only four offensive rebounds in the game.
“The key was the ability to keep them off the offensive glass,” he said. “I think if you go look at the stats, we held them to four or five. We matched them in the rebound total, and that’s outstanding against Knox Central. They’ve beaten a lot of good basketball teams on second chance points, and I felt like our kids did a great job.”
Pietrowski also was impressed with the way his etam executed down the stretch.
“We work on this all of the time — who’s got the ball and what’s the situation,” he said. “I thought our kids reacted extremely well. They (Knox Central) took a tough shot and we were able to get a rebound, and then we started getting to the foul line. I’ve been in it too long, 30 seconds is an eternity in the postseason. I felt like our kids kept their composure for the most part and grinded it out.”
The game was tied at nine apiece after the first quarter while Corbin held a slim 27-23 edge at halftime. The Redhounds’ lead was trimmed to one point (40-39) entering the fourth quarter before seeing Knox Central take control. The Panthers opened the final period of play with a 9-2 run, while taking a 48-42 lead with 4:37 left in regulation after a 3-pointer by Troy Bierman, but that’s when the Redhounds turned both their offensive and defensive play a notch and took over.
“We got lost on defense a lot late and missed free throws early,” Patterson said. “It just wasn’t one or two sets. It was throughout the game, but we were up six late and kind of got lost offensively, too. It’s just one of those things.”
Corbin began to celebrate, realizing the win was locked up after Taylor’s two made free throws gave his team a 55-50 edge with 6.8 remaining in the game.
“We talk to our kids all of the time about positive emotion,” Pietrowski said. “I’ve got no problem with my kids showing emotion as long as it’s on the positive side. We’ve put a lot of work into this. This was an old 50th District battle. It means a lot when it’s Corbin and Knox Central. It is what it is. We wanted to win and were excited to win and we needed to show some of that emotion.”
Taylor led all scorers with 28 points on 9-of-14 shooting from the floor. He was also 8-of-12 from the free-throw line while Chase Sanders followed with a seven-point scoring effort. The Redhounds finished the game hitting 19-of-46 shot attempts, including 4-of-15 from 3-point range. Corbin turned the ball over only five times compared to Knox Central’s 12. Markelle Turner led the Panthers with 13 points while Dane Imel finished with 10.