PIKEVILLE – The Belfry Pirates fell 62-53 to the Johnson Central Golden Eagles on Wednesday night during the first round of the boys 15th Region Tournament at the Eastern Kentucky Expo Center.
The Pirates suffered from cold shooting late in the fourth period and the 2015-2016 season has officially ended. Belfry showed up to play ball, but the Golden Eagles earned a seven point lead late in the fourth and utilized the shrinking game clock to their advantage against the Pirates.
Johnson Central’s Jacob Rice started the scoring with a 3-pointer to start off the game but the Pirates scored two quick goals and took a one point lead over the Golden Eagles. Both teams went shot for shot through most of the first period until Johnson Central scored back to back goals at the 1:14 mark and put the score at 11-9. Belfry’s Ryan Jessie was fouled and made one of his two free throws to put the Pirates with in one point. Grant Davis pushed the Golden Eagles ahead with a last second score to end the first at 13-10 in favor of Johnson Central.
Belfry tied up the game to start the second period until Cole Grace created some breathing room for the Golden Eagles with a 3-pointer. Johnson Central stayed in control of the lead and increased it to four points heading into halftime with a score of 28-24. Belfry’s Koleston Blankenship hit a last second bucket that would have put the Pirates within two points but the time ran out before the basket could count.
The Pirates had played aggressive and had been right on the Golden Eagle’s heels. The two teams faced off before back in January where Belfry was forced to fight back from a 30 point deficit after Mason Blair had the game of the season. This time the Pirates where staying within striking distance.
Johnson Central scored first to start off the second half when Grace hit a 10 ft. jumper. Belfry continued to follow close behind until they caught a break, there was a carry call on the Golden Eagles and Belfry gained possession. Belfry fought to within four points but Grace was fouled at the 3:55 mark and allowed a plus one free throw after he made the initial shot. Grace made the free throw and put the score at 40-33.
The Golden Eagles ended the third period ahead seven points with a score of 44-37. Belfry turned the ball over to start the fourth period and Johnson Central took off. After two 3-pointers by Johnson Central in the fourth, Belfry had still cut the lead down to five points. Johnson Central put the lead back at seven and Belfry called a quick timeout, the plan didn’t work as the Golden Eagles caught a long in bounds pass and Grace laid up and uncontested shot to make the score 58-49 with just under two minutes left to play in the game.
Belfry started looking for the long ball but the shots were not falling. Johnson Central increased the lead with foul shots in the final minute and a half and the game slipped away from the Pirates. The Pirates have been up and down all season, playing great in some games and sloppy in others. The end of the road has been reached.
Belfry’s Head Coach Mark Thompson remarked on the game and season after the loss. “I thought we did a great job through the month of February and I thought we played very hard tonight. We done everything we had to do to win but we just didn’t have the shots fall. Our turnovers wasn’t bad, we played good defense. They just had some shots in transition that hurt us and we weren’t shooting great. We did a good job on Blair this time but then Grace stepped up and had a huge game. I am happy though with how much we progressed throughout the year and how we were playing here at the end of the season,” said Thompson.
Thompson continued by saying, “To make it to Regionals, I think it says a lot about our team and these guys. Overall I am pleased with where our program is heading, we doubled our wins from last year. We were in a lot of close ball games early in the season, after a game like this I’m not unhappy with how hard they played.”
“One thing I regret throughout the season was not getting our younger players more time and experience earlier in the season, that is something that I look back on and see I could have done things different,” said Thompson.
The Pirates will lose seniors Garrett Fannin and Keilan Carr to graduation during the off season, Thompson spoke well of both players. “Fannin has been such a pivotal key to this program since his sophomore season. Two years ago I just threw him to the wolves and he excelled, I love that kid; he’s very quiet and he never gets too emotional. He will finish ranked 3rd on the Pirates all-time scoring list. Keilan is a phenomenal athlete, he has worked so hard, his athleticism will be hard to replace on this team,” said Thompson.
Belfry finished the season with a final record of 12-18. Johnson central will advance to play East Ridge on Saturday at the eastern Kentucky Expo Center. The winner from that game will advance to the 15th Regional Championship game.
Score by quarters:
Belfry (12-18) 10 14 13 16 — 53
Johnson Cen. (19-12) 13 15 16 18 — 62
BHS: Woolum 11, Fannin 8, Blankenship 8, Bentley 12, Jessie 5, James 2, Browning 5, Barker 2.
JC: Cole Crace 24, Mason Blair 16, Jacob Rice 4, Josh Hitchcock 7, Tyler Pack 4, Jerry McCarty 4, Luke Vance 3.
(William Plaster is the sports reporter for the Williamson Daily News, he can be reached at 304-235-4242 ext. 2274 or at [email protected] or on twitter @sidplaster)