The Letcher County Central Cougars improved to 4-0 last week with victories over Jenkins, Phelps and Powell County.
Despite graduating six of his top eight players off last year’s 19-14 team, the early success of this current pride of Cougars does does not surprise coach Robert Hammonds.
“Am I surprised by our 4-0 start?” Hammonds asked in response to the same question. “This team has not been a surprise to us but may be to some others. A lot of people did not recognize the talent we had coming back. This team may be a little better offensively than last year’s team, but they’re not (yet) as good defensively.
Letcher Central 73
Powell County 52
The host Cougars jumped on the Pirates early and hard in the nightcap of the Whitaker Bank Cougar Classic on Saturday night. LCCHS’s defense confused the Pirates early and Cody Gregory keyed the offense, beating the defense to the hole all night long. Gregory, who finished the night with a game-high 20 points, scored 14 in the first half, many on lay-ups over the defense.
“I think we have the best point guard (Cody Gregory) in the region,” said Hammonds. “Cody understands his abilities and he plays to his strengths and he makes everyone around him better. If you run the floor with him, he’ll reward you by getting you the ball.”
Gregory’s steal and three-point play pushed LCCHS’s margin to 17-4 with 2:02 left in the first quarter. Powell County then went on a 7-2 run to cut the Cougars’ margin to 19-11 with 6:42 left in the second quarter, but Josh Owens, who finished with a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds, scored on three straight trips down the floor as LCCHS pulled away to a comfortable 39-22 margin at the half.
“A lot of people did not know about Josh Owens but they will,” said Hammonds. “We knew about Josh and we knew he could play and you saw it here tonight.”
Owens’s layup extended the Cougars’ lead to 46-26 with 5:40 left in the third quarter. Powell County then made a rally, cutting the Cougars’ lead to 56-39 heading into the final quarter.
After Dylan Kincer’s free throws gave LCCHS a 61-45 lead with 5:01 left to play, Owens put together another offensive spurt scoring on three straight trips down the floor and the Cougars’ lead was 71-46 and Powell County was out of time.
To support Hammonds’s statement that he has a good offensive team, the Cougars shot 47 percent for the game, making 26/56 field goal attempts. Gregory was 8/11 field goals shooting and Owens was 9/14.
The Cougars out-rebounded the Pirates 45-28 and limited them to just 36 percent field goal shooting for the game (17/47).
Kyle Lacy’s 14 points led the 2-4 Pirates. Brett Goodwin chipped in with a double-double of 13 points and a game-high 14 rebounds.
Sam Robinson finished with 10 points for the Cougars while Zane Blair added eight points and 12 rebounds. Dylan Kincer chipped in with four points and eight rebounds. Chippy Frazier battled early foul trouble to finish with nine points, and Hunter Hall wound up with two points.
Letcher Central 78
This Cougar victory over the out-manned and visiting Hornets on December 6 was more than just an easy victory. This game allowed Coach Hammonds to substitute freely, and substitute freely he did.
In all, 25 players got into the game and 18 made it into the scoring column. For many of the Cougars, these were both their first varsity minutes and their first varsity points.
Phelps returned just two players from last year’s 10- 22 team that made the 15th Regional tournament. Zack Avina’s game-high 27 points led the 0-4 Hornets. Tate Compton finished with 12 points.
LCCHS led 19-0 after the first quarter, 34-13 at the half, and 54-29 after three quarters. LCCHS was led in scoring by sophomore Austin Combs’s 11 points. Dylan Kincer scored eight points, while Sam Robinson and Austin Caudill finished with seven points each. Jordan Gregory and Aaron Tackett scored six points each. Paul Sokolowich scored five points, while Cody Gregory and Zane Blair finished with four points each. Austin Bolling, Austin Boggs and Tyler Collins scored three points each. Chippy Frazier, Jordan Morrow, Tyler Frazier, Dylan Caudill and Tevin Williams scored two points each. Hunter Hall added one point.
Letcher Central 61
The Cavaliers were within a basket of the Cougars until the final three minutes of this key early season district match-up December 4 in Jenkins before LCCHS converted critical free throws down the stretch to hold off the Cavs.
The inside/outside duo of Koty Sexton and Casey Hall proved Jenkins with the lead throughout most of the first half. Jenkins led 16-12 after the first quarter, and 30-23 at the break.
Hall, who finished with 16 points, scored 10 in the first half, and Sexton scored nine of this game-high 17 points in the first half. Randy Potter finished with 10 points and Josh Collins added five points. Huey Quillen and Jordan Bentley chipped in with two points each.
In the third quarter, LCCHS rallied behind Cody Gregory, who scored 10 of his 12 total points in the quarter. Zane Blair provided ample support inside with a couple of huge baskets, and finished with nine points as the Cougars led 42-40 heading into the final quarter.
Down the stretch, Josh Owens picked up the scoring slack with a couple of big baskets, including 6/8 from the charity line. Owens finished with a team-high 14 points. Chippy Frazier finished with 10 points, but none bigger than the 4/4 from the charity line in the final minutes. Max Hall chipped in with nine points, and Sam Robinson would up with seven points.
Jenkins converted nineof 17 from the charity line, while the Cougars managed to make 21-of-31.