By Don White, CV&T Sports Writer
John Calipari is fond of saying his Kentucky Wildcats could just as easily be 4-6 on the season instead of 10-0.
The same could be said of Lawrence Tiller’s Engineers, but in a much more positive light.
With just a break here and there, Estill could be sporting a 5 -1 record instead of being off to a 1-5 start.
After opening with a 70-41 defeat at Perry County Central, the young Engineers have lost four games by a total of 30 points.
A heart-breaker of a loss came against Lee County on Tuesday of last week.
Coach Tiller attributed the defeat to “An inability to score, lack of concentration, and inability to stick to the game plan to box out Dontarius Pittman.
The Lee scoring-machine tossed in 32 points, mostly on offensive rebounds.
Despite the poor execution, Estill had three chances to win or tie in the last minute of the game.
Before losing their last three, Tiller’s team managed a 47-45 win over traditional 12th Region power Monticello in the first round of the Berea Invitational.
The victory came despite being without team leader Kenton Roberts, missing due to illness.
Cade Berryman showed great concentration under pressure, coolly sinking two free throws with seven seconds left to seal the victory.
The sick bug hit again on Friday against Model when sixth man Travis Allen’s rebounding and scoring skills were sorely missed.
“Despite being up double digits at halftime against a very good Model team, we could not hold the lead due to several reasons,” says Tiller.
“First we came out for the second half flat, despite knowing and being prepared for the fact they would come out and play hard.
“Secondly, in the second half, we did a poor job of handling the press.
“Lastly, our young team does not know how to prepare to play on the road out of region.
“We got out-shot 36 free throws to 18 and had 27 fouls to their 13, but when you play on the road out of region, you must be prepared to battle those odds.”
Going up against host Berea on Saturday morning the Engineers, failure to execute in the closing seconds contributed to a 42-38 loss.
“Our inexperience really showed through,” says the coach.
“Saturday night in the fifth place game was truly a poor performance. Fatigue, both mentally and physically reared its ugly head and we shot twenty-six percent for the game despite holding our opponents to a point total in the low forties for the third time out of six games this year.
The road won’t get any easier for Estill the rest of this year.
After hosting Hazard on Tuesday night, the squad travels to Owsley County for a 7:30 p.m. match-up on Friday against a team that put up 86 points in a loss to Menifee County.
Next Monday, the Engineers open play in the Jessamine Invitational facing a Paris team that is 0-4 with all the losses coming against quality competition. That game gets underway at 6 p.m. in Nicholasville.
Undefeated Menifee County, a team averaging over 84 points per game, awaits on Tuesday at 6 p.m.
Tourney play for Estill ends on Wednesday morning at 11:45 against co-host East Jessamine, a team standing at 2-1 including a six-point victory over a strong Lincoln County squad.
After losing eight seniors responsible for 80 to 90 percent of last year’s offense, it comes as no surprise that this year’s team is struggling in that area.
The bright spot, according to Coach Tiller, is the defense that is holding foes to around 50 points per game.
Finding help on offense for junior Kenton Roberts is seen as key to turning the season around.
“We must have some players step up on the offensive end and help Kenton Roberts out, and take pressure off him,” said Tiller, also noting more players need to be willing to take and make shots.
“We are missing too many lay-ups. We need to take the makeable shots at the right time. “We also need to be more aggressive in terms of rebounding on the offensive end of the floor. We are not taking advantage of our size advantage because of our timid play and inexperience.
“Hopefully that will change as the season goes on and our offense will catch up with our defense, and we will continue to play aggressive defense.
“We are looking to improve to make a run for the district tourney.
“It is very difficult to keep in perspective that we are in a marathon and not a sprint, with the district and region tourney as the finish line.”