Engineer standout Joe Benton (upper left) reached the 1000 point career scoring mark this past week during a home game versus Montgomery County.
By Blain Click
CV&T Sports Reporter
The Estill County Engineers finished another busy week of basketball as things are heating up down the stretch approaching the post season.
The week started on Tuesday as the Engineers lost a close game to old 40th district rival Montgomery Co. by a score of 58-52. This year marks the first time since leaving the 40th district in 2006, that Estill County has played both Clark Co and Montgomery Co in the same season despite being in the 40th district from 1978-2006.
Estill played it close in the first quarter trailing by only two after one stanza, but the second quarter saw the Indians outscore the Engineers 19-12 and take an eight point lead into half time. In the third, Joe Benton got hot from three as he has been most of the year teaming up with Dillon Long to surge the Engineers back in the game. Montgomery led 41-38 after three but the age and experience of the Montgomery squad kicked in down the stretch, and the Indians pulled ahead to win 58-52.
Joe Benton led all scorers with 22. That is six points above his team-leading 16 points per game average on the season. Joe also averages 40 percent shooting from the three point line.
Dillon Long also had a big game pouring in 18. Landon Napier scored five points, Cobbe Click, four, and Micah Adams chipped in with three. Estill County fell to 4-12 on the year while Montgomery County moved to 10-9.
The second game of the week was a Friday night doubleheader against 56th district foe Lee County in Beattyville. Lee Co. has not won a district game in two years but has been improving as of late while playing some very young players.
Lee County players never met a shot they didn’t like, including a few 3-point attempts from more than 27’ away from the basket. Estill led 20-15 after one, primarily on the sizzling start by Joe Benton who hit four threes and scored 18 of the 20 Estill County points in the quarter.
Lee County’s young guards continued to drain threes, but the Estill defense started forcing a few more mistakes in the second, and Estill nudged ahead for a 10 point advantage at the half. That is the closest a Lee Co. team has been to Estill at the half in more than two years.
The third quarter saw the game get away from the Bobcats as Estill used balanced scoring from Landon and Logan Napier, along with Long and Benton, to lead 58-40 after three. The Engineers went on to win 76-54.
Joe Benton had a season high 33 points on the night, followed by Dillon Long with 14. Logan Napier continues to show a soft touch at the hoop as he tossed in 13 while his younger brother Landon drove the lane for a cool 10 points. Cobbe click, Will Isfort, and Dustin Beeler each chipped in with a deuce. Estill will now go into the district tournament as the two or three seed and will square off against Owsley Co. Lee County is assured the four seed and will meet Powell in the opening round.
The final game of the week saw the Engineers travel to Jackson for a showdown with a strong Breathitt Co. squad in the historic Breathitt Co. Coliseum. This landmark gym was built in 1964 and first started hosting 14th region tournament games in 1965 as the Bobcats had just completed winning five regions in a row under legendary Coach Fairce Woods.
This year’s Bobcat Coach John Noble has Breathitt Co. in the regional contender discussion as he returned four starters plus added former Estill County starter, transfer JT O’Hare, into the lineup from last year.
Breathitt came out aggressive as coach Noble has been known to do, and the Bobcats jumped ahead of Engineers 25-15 after one quarter. The Engineers’ defense was definitely subpar on the night, allowing Breathitt several open lanes and open threes in the first half. The Bobcats knocked down 10 threes in the first half alone and led 55-33 at intermission.
The second half saw both teams utilize a lot of players but the Bobcats did cool off from three making only two more in the second half. Breathitt led 73-53 after three.
The Engineers did not quit, however, outscoring the Bobcats 19-12 in the fourth and cutting the final margin to 13 points, 85-72.
Joe Benton led all scorers with 29 points, including 15 of 16 from the free throw line. Dillon Long scored 10 followed by Will Isfort with eight, Landon Napier with six, and Micah Adams with five. Eighth grader Kade Benton chipped in with five, Conner Chaney tossed in four, Cobbe Click, three, and Logan Napier, two.
Breathitt County moved to 11-6 on the year, and Estill fell to 5-13.