The Letcher County Central Cougars took on tournament favorite Hazard Monday night, but couldn’t come up with the near flawless game it would have taken to match the Bulldogs’ speed and athleticism and fell 68-56.
The Bulldogs won the tip and missed their opening shot. The Cougars’ Charlie Banks hit an 18- foot shot for the first Cougar lead. Big Eric Ison hit a baby hook and then scored again inside for a 6-0 Cougar lead. Cole Cornett answered a Warren lay-up with a layup for an 8-2 Cougar lead.
A trey by Mr. Trey, Josh Proffitt, gave the Cougars an 11-4 lead, but Hazard went on a 6-0 run to cut it to 11-10. The Cougars pulled back out by 5 after buckets by Banks and 2 free throws by freshman Logan Johnson.
The Cougars lost the lead after Hazard went ahead 23-21 on a shot by Eric Back. And then the turnovers hit for the Cougars. A turnover and Back hits a trey and it was 26-21 Hazard, another turnover and a Cougar foul and Hazard converts, 28-21 Bulldogs. The Bulldogs held for the last shot of the half and hit it to lead 30-23 at the break.
The Cougars had 12 turnovers at the break and Hazard converted 16 points. The Cougars hit 9-15 at the half for 60 percent and 4-4 from the line. They were out rebounded 17-12.
Joe B. Hall was on hand to watch the game. He was the ’78 national championship coach for the University of Kentucky Wildcats.
The third quarter saw Hazard score first to pull out to a 32-23 lead, and the two teams went back and forth. The Cougars ended the quarter on a half-court shot by Logan Johnson that pulled the Cougars within 6 at 47-41.
The Cougars turned it over again to start the fourth and Hazard jumped out by as many as 12. Logan Johnson scored 4 in the quarter, but the Cougars’ strategy of fouling Hazard late in the game proved too much as the ‘Dogs would win by 12 at 68-56.
Charlie Banks fouled out of his last game as a Cougar as he was a non-factor because of foul trouble. He is really going to be missed. Also putting up their last shots as Cougars were the dynamic duo of Devon Blair and Josh Proffitt. They have set the groundwork for the younger Cougars to build on. Also playing in their last game were crowd favorite Eric Ison and the inside force of Jordan Reynolds. Their hard work inside set up the fast breaks after a rebound and everyone loved Ison’s hook shot.
The Cougars finished the season at 22-8 and Hazard moved on to the championship game. The Cougars shot 22-41 for the game for 53 percent and hit 3-5 treys. They hit 9-12 free throws. They were beaten on the boards 35-27 by the Bulldogs, and had 17 turnovers.
The Cougars were led in their last game by Josh Proffitt in his last game as a Cougar with 12 points. He was followed by Logan Johnson with 11. Charlie Banks ended his career with 8. Jordan Reynolds, playing his last game, scored 7. Eric Ison, Cole Cornett, and Devon Blair had 6 each as Blair and Ison played their last game. James Gose finished with 2.
It was another great season in Cougarland and the seniors will be sorely missed but things look good for the future and the Cougars will be back