By LINDSEY WOOD
For the first time in school history, the Estill County Engineer basketball team ended their season in Rupp Arena at the state tournament. They gave it their best but ultimately fell to Corbin 50-40 in the first round.
Before the game, the Engineer basketball team was given the royal treatment by a grateful hometown community. As the team left Irvine, they were sent off by dozens of Estill fans lined up on Main Street and were even met with a homemade sign in the shape of a train on Richmond Road.
The boys later arrived in Lexington in a charter bus and strode into Rupp Arena with new matching navy blazers, all paid for by local businesses.
Estill fans were even more excited for their team as game-time drew near. Before the gates to Rupp Area opened, the ticket lines formed a sea of blue; hardly any Corbin red could be seen. When fans finally filled the stadium seats, they got to watch the Engineers take the court to the sound of the pep band blasting the train song, a surreal experience for both the young and the old.
When the game began, Estill’s student section (which contained more than 500 students) cheered and chanted for Estill as they battled Corbin for the edge. The Engineers themselves looked fairly calm to be playing in the state tournament for the first time: they hung right with Corbin through the half. However, turnovers quickly became an issue for Estill, and with Coach Bentley’s deliberate, methodical style of offense, the team could not afford to lose so many possessions.
Despite a few setbacks, Estill managed to keep the game close and to even tie the score a couple times. Unfortunately, the Engineers were never able to completely lock down on defense or to eliminate turnovers, allowing Corbin to expand their lead toward the end of the game. Corbin would eventually defeat Estill by a 10-point margin, but not once did the Engineers look out of place against their competitors; they represented themselves and their entire community with class and hustle.
Although Estill could have won this game if they had played their best basketball, they should have no regrets looking back on the unprecedented accomplishments of the season. They brought home a district regular season championship, a district tournament championship, and (of course!) a big-time regional championship.
When looking back on this game, senior and fourteenth region player of the year and regional tournament most valuable player, Caleb Bonny, was disappointed to lose but said, “At least I got to end my career in Rupp Arena; I mean, that’s been my dream since I could remember.”