With a 50-40 win over Estill County, the Corbin Redhounds have improved to 26-7 on the season, and are advancing to play in the Elite Eight of the 2018 KHSAA state championship tournament on Friday.
The Engineers gave the Hounds all they could handle in their round one game Wednesday, but in the end Corbin found a way to pull out the exciting ten-point victory and advance to Friday’s quarterfinal round.
“We’re obviously excited to get the win,” said Redhounds head coach Tony Pietrowski after the game. “I think a lot of people had kind of labeled Estill County as a Cinderella, or an underdog, but they were a really good basketball team.”
“It was a grind for us in the first half,” Pietrowski added. “We didn’t shoot it all that well, but we kept our poise, continued to grind into the second half and made enough plays down the stretch to get the win.”
Two baskets, a three-point shot and a two-point shot, by junior Chase Sanders put Corbin up 5-0 to start Wednesday afternoon’s tournament opener at Rupp Arena in Lexington. A free throw by Engineer Lane Doty tied the game up at 5-5 with 4:45 left in the first quarter, and the score was tied again at 7-7 shortly after that.
Baskets by Ethan Wine, Chandler Stewart, Sanders and Andrew Taylor eventually put the Hounds up 15-7, but a three-point shot from Estill County made it 15-10 at the end of one.
A Stewart shot and foul extended Corbin’s lead to 18-10 early in the second quarter, but a 10-0 run by the Engineers gave them the 20-18 lead before a bucket by Redhound Matthew Taylor knotted things up at 20-20 with about a minute-and-a-half to go before halftime.
After a Sanders three and an old fashioned three-point play from Doty, both sides went into the locker room at the half once again tied, 23-23.
Corbin’s Andrew Taylor went to the bench with three fouls in the third quarter, but would return in the fourth. He picked up his fourth foul with 3:38 left in the game, but was able to avoid fouling out as he went on to lead his team to the 50-40 win.
“It feels great,” Taylor said of getting the opportunity to play at Rupp in his last season wearing a Redhound uniform. “We got upset in the region championship last year, so we’ve been working hard to get here ever since.”
As for how the team has approached getting to play in a state tourney, Taylor said, “We came up here focused on the task at hand. We knew that Estill County liked to play at a slower pace, and it wasn’t going to be easy. We’re two different teams that play in different ways, but in the end we were able to get the win. It just feels great. After this game I think we’re used to playing on this floor, so I expect even better things in the next game.”
Fellow senior Chandler Stewart added to Taylor’s comments, saying, “This was pretty awesome, getting to come to Rupp Arena and play on this historic court. Me and my dad used to come to the tournament every year, so to be able to get to play in it is pretty awesome.”
Finally, Sanders said of his experience, “It’s a dream come true to play at Rupp Arena. Growing up as a Kentucky fan, you watch all of those players that played here who are now playing in the NBA. It’s just a dream come true.”
Corbin didn’t have to wait long to find out who they will be playing in Friday afternoon’s Elite Eight contest, as the Scott County Cardinals (35-1) were able to pull out a thrilling one-point victory over Trinity in game two of Wednesday’s early session, 54-53.
The Cards are, of course, led by legendary head coach Billy Hicks, who coached the Redhounds for many years before going to Scott County. Among Hicks’ many former players during his time with the Redhounds is none other than current head coach of the Hounds, Tony Pietrowski.
Both coaches expressed a great deal of excitement after their wins Wednesday when asked about the prospect of facing off against each other in Friday’s quarterfinal round game, scheduled to tipoff at noon inside Rupp Arena.
The News Journal will provide another update Friday after the game.
Corbin 50, Estill Co 40
Corbin – 15 8 15 12 – 50
Estill – 10 13 11 6 – 40
CHS – Sanders 10, Stewart 16, A. Taylor 15, M. Taylor 6, Maguet 1, Wine 2