By Lisa Bicknell
In an unlikely turn of events, two spiked balls may have cost the opponents of the Estill County Engineers a shot at the regional championship.
That was one factor; the Engineers’ tenacity, hustle, and ability to keep their composure under pressure was another.
In the first round of the tournament on Wednesday, March 2, Estill and Wolfe counties faced off in what would prove to be a very close game during the entire contest.
Estill had a slim lead of 12 to 11 at the end of the first quarter. During the second half, Estill made a bit of a run, but Wolfe County narrowed the gap. The score was 24 to 20 at half time, Estill’s favor.
Wolfe County gained the lead going into the third quarter, but Kade Benton tied the game, 29-29. Wolfe County again nosed ahead, but Kenny Dale Rose hit a three-pointer at the buzzer and the score was Estill, 36-Wolfe, 35 at the end of the third quarter.
The game remained close throughout the last quarter of the game, but Wolfe County took the lead. They appeared to have won the game until one of their players celebrated prematurely and spiked the ball on the floor with four seconds remaining on the clock. A technical foul was called and Kade Benton hit two free throws to tie the game at 48-48 and send it into overtime.
There would be three overtimes, to be exact.
The game remained close until the final buzzer-beating three pointer to win the game, 80-78.
Kade Benton finished the game with 36 points, 26 of them in the second half. Rose had 14 points, Isfort and Beeler had 11, and Bryce Willis finished the game with seven points. (These stats are incomplete. Others made valuable contributions to the game as well.)
On Sunday, the Engineers faced Cordia at 2 p.m. in Breathitt County.
The pace of the entire game was fast and furious. Senior Will Isfort was particularly hot and ended the first quarter with 12 points. The score was 22-19 at the end of the first quarter.
The game was give and take all throughout the second half, as Isfort continued to pour it on Cordia. They responded in kind; however, and the score at halftime was 42-42.
In the third quarter, Estill appeared a little shaky, and Cordia gained an 11 point lead at one point. But the Engineers doubled down on effort and chipped away at the lead. Late in the fourth quarter, they had come back within two, when a Cordia player was called for a foul, sending Bryce Willis to the free-throw line.
The Cordia player spiked the ball in frustration and was called with a technical foul. Willis was assigned all four free throws, and he hit them, putting the Engineers on top.
The Engineers prevailed with a score of 93-87. Will Isfort ended the game with 43 points.
On Tuesday, March 8, the “Neers” were to face Perry Central for the regional championship and a chance to play again in Rupp Arena in the state tournament. The results of the game were not known at press time. Stay tuned for an update.