By LINDSEY WOOD
Last Friday, the Estill County boys’ basketball team smashed Powell County 64-45 to claim the 56th district tournament championship title for the second year in a row. The Engineers are now district tournament champions, district regular season champions, and a favorite going into regional post-season play.
Though Powell would strike first, senior guard Caleb Bonny set the tone for the Engineers, sinking three consecutive three-point shots to propel Estill to an early 9-3 lead. The Engineers led 12-7 at the end of the first.
Despite a dominant first quarter, the Engineer offense lulled a bit in the second, allowing Powell to retake the lead 19-18. Estill answered their challenge and pulled ahead 24-19 by the end of the half—and they never looked back.
In the third quarter, the Engineers expanded their lead and put Powell away. Led by Bonny and Andrew Doty, the offense exploded and put 15 total points on the board. Even more impressive, perhaps, was Estill’s defense, which held the Pirates to a measly six points. Junior transfer J.T. O’Hair played a huge part in this effort, along with senior Kevin Richardson.
Estill finished strong, further expanding their lead in the fourth. Powell played like they had all but given up this quarter, and Estill capitalized on their complacency, at one point leading by 24. Coach Jon Bentley even subbed out the starters, leaving J.V. players to finish the game: a rare occurrence in a Powell/Estill district final.
Following the game, Estill was presented with the district tournament trophy, to which the Estill student section responded with a roar of approval. In addition, A. Doty, Richardson, and Bonny were recognized as members of the al-district team. Finally, O’Hair received the Defensive Award and Bonny his second district Most Valuable Player Award.
The next day, Estill hosted the fourteenth region tournament draw. Estill drew Wolfe County as their first-round opponent and will face the winner of Hazard and Cordia (who upset Knott County Central to win their district tournament). On the other side of the bracket, Knott will face Breathitt County and Perry County Central will face Powell.
Estill, Cordia, and Knott are the competitors to watch in the regional tournament, and many basketball enthusiasts expect Estill to be an especially tough opponent. As we approach the moment Estill basketball fans have been waiting for, Coach Bentley’s preseason proclamation comes to mind: “This is the year!”
The Engineers will take on Wolfe County Wednesday, Feb. 28, at 8 p.m. at Perry County Central.