Darren Doyle, story and photos
Four different Wildcats landed in double figures last night as they capped off a perfect 6-0 district season after defeating Whitesville Trinity 69-66 at ECHS. Coach Mike McClintic was asked if he expected to finish the season undefeated in District 12 play.
"No. Everybody had us picked to finish fourth in the district," he said. "But our kids took that as a challenge, and they rose to it."
He also spoke of the team effort that he saw from the Wildcats last night, an effort where he didn't know who scored in double figures or who didn't. He said he had recently discussed the same subject with a head coach from a different school.
"He told me that there wasn't just one guy on our team that someone could stop to make a difference because someone else would just pick it up. We've got guys that aren't afraid to pass the ball. When you've got guys that are passing up open shots so someone else can get a better shot, you know you're coaching a good team."
The Wildcats got off to a mediocre start trailing 13-9 after the first quarter, but a 14-2 run by Edmonson County in the second helped them grab a 23-15 lead. The Raiders found a run of their own, outscoring the Wildcats 12-5 during the last couple minutes of the half as they cut the Edmonson County lead to 28-27 at halftime.
The Raiders came out of the locker room with plenty of intensity and tied it at 30 all with a three pointer during the first minute of the third quarter, then regained the lead with another three to make it 33-30. The score see-sawed over the next few minutes until Trinity was able to put up an unanswered bucket and a three to take their largest lead of the game at 46-60 with a minute and a half left in the third.
The Wildcats regained their composure as Bailey Board would score a bucket, then two free throws on the next play to come within two at 46-44 with just a few seconds left in the quarter.
The same type of back-and-forth scoring took place as the fourth quarter began, but Tucker Cole shot a big time charge into the crowd when banked in a three pointer to tie the score at 49 all with 6:20 left in the game. The lead changed 5 times during the next 5 exchanges.
Caleb Skaggs was fouled hard on a layup attempt with 3:02 left. He hit both free throws to regain the lead at 57-56, and the Wildcats would never trail again, holding on for the 69-66 win.
Leading the way for the Cats were Hunter Buttram and Bailey Board with 18 points each, Austin Sowders added 15 points and 6 rebounds, and Caleb Skaggs had 10. Buttram sank 4 of 10 from beyond the arc and was 3/3 on two-point baskets. Iszic Blankenship had 5 points and 7 rebounds and Tucker Cole scored 3.
The Wildcats improve to 16-9 on the season and will play the last home game of the year this Friday night against Greenwood. Senior night was something that Coach Mac didn't want to say too much about.
"I'd have a hard time talking about that right now," he said with glassy eyes. "Those kids mean an awful lot to me. I also want to mention something else. We've talked about Jarrod (Hines) and what he's been through, we've talked about Austin Hodge being injured, but I also want to mention Jacob Peger. He's a senior, and he's been great. Whether it's in the locker room, or backing up what we say, that's something people don't always see, but as a coach, you appreciate that. You know, it's leadership."
Coach Mac went on about his personal relationship with his Wildcats. "They make me laugh. Last year's seniors have rubbed off on this year's, it's gotta be a team, or nothing."