Six straight 50th District titles and a 10-game winning streak were not enough to place the Corbin Redhounds as the favorite heading into their matchup with the Jackson County Generals in the first round of the 13th Region Tournament.
Even against the odds, the Redhounds relished the role of the underdog and proved that March Madness is still alive with their 52-48 win over a very good Generals’ squad on Friday.
This was not the first time this season that Corbin faced their doubters. Fans were starting to hit the panic button back in January when the Redhounds dropped five games in a row, the most in coach Tony Pietrowski’s tenure. But their resilience paid off and now 10 games later, they are headed to the semi-finals of the 13th Region Tournament.
“We talked about the rough stretch we went through with the five losses and we just took a look at ourselves. The kids just really bought in,” said Pietrowski. “This was the epitome of a complete team effort. This is a fun team to coach. They want to keep winning and keep advancing and they did that tonight.”
It was the second time in as many nights that one of the top teams in the region fell in the first round to 50th District teams. On Thursday, Knox Central was upset by Williamsburg and Corbin stepped up in their win over Jackson County.
Corbin was able to take the game because of some key advantages throughout the contest. The Redhounds outrebounded the Generals 30-21 in the game and held Jackson County star point guard Jordan Fox to just 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting.
“I think we out rebounded them by eight or nine and we knew we had to do that in order to win this game,” said Pietrowski. “We had some kids step up on defense and we were able to make some plays down the stretch to hold on. It’s just a great win.”
The Generals took control of the game early, as junior forward Isaiah Collier connected on his first three three-point shots in the first quarter. Corbin continued to fight back in the period and a pair of free throws by Conner Hopkins put the Redhounds up 13-11 after one.
Corbin scored the first six points of the second quarter, taking a 19-11 lead with 6:07 left in the first half. Jackson County cut the lead to 21-19 with 3:45 on the clock, but Corbin outscored the Generals 6-2 in the final minutes to take a 27-21 advantage into halftime.
“Our bench play continues to be big for us. Conner (Hopkins), Kenny (Hopper) and Trevor (Browning) all made key plays for us in the game,” said Pietrowski. “I can really go down the line and point to every individual and how they helped us win tonight.”
The third quarter got off to a slow start, as Corbin tried holding the ball to waste some clock.With the Redhounds up 28-22 with 3:14 left in the third, Jackson County began to rally, cutting the lead to 36-33 heading into the fourth.
Collier scored back-to-back baskets to start the fourth quarter, giving the Generals a 37-36 lead. The teams fought back and forth and Jackson County led 41-40 with 5:34 left in the game. Consecutive threes by Andrew Taylor and Joey Shelton gave Corbin a 46-41 lead that they never relinquished.
Jackson County tied the score at 46-46, but the Redhounds outscored the Generals 6-2 down the stretch to hold on to a 52-48 victory.
It’s the first time in three years that Corbin has advanced to the semifinals of the 13th Region Tournament. Pietrowski’s squad made it to the championship game in 2011, before falling to Bell County, the same team they’ll face later today. The Redhounds’ last lost came at the hands of the Bobcats, 56-45, just over a month ago.
“Basically, they just manhandled us the last time we played and did it on our home court,” said Pietrowksi. “I told our kids to enjoy this win and we will get together in the morning and get ready for tomorrow night’s game.”
13th Region Tournament
Boys’ First Round
at The Arena
Corbin 52, Jackson County 48
Corbin 13 14 9 16 - 52
Jackson County 11 10 12 15 - 48
Corbin (52) - Goins 12, Hopper 10, Shelton 8, Hopkins 6, Maguet 5, Taylor 5, Browning 4, Waddle 2.
Jackson County (48) - Collier 19, Fox 10, Hammonds 10, Lawson 5, Bingham 4.