The Letcher County Central Cougars had a very busy and successful opening week of their season. With victories at Jenkins and Prestonsburg last Tuesday and Wednesday, Dec. 7 and 8 respectively, the Cougars ended the week by defeating Wolfe County on Friday and East Ridge on Saturday to run their record to 4-0.
The Cougars are at Breathitt County Dec. 16, then will travel to London to participate in the fourday Hooping It Up Classic at South Laurel beginning on Friday.
Letcher Co. Central 72
East Ridge 70 (OT)
The Cougars needed overtime last Saturday night, a huge effort from junior center Koree Steward, and steady play on both ends of the floor by junior guard Logan Johnson to finally outlast visiting and unbeaten East Ridge 72-70.
Matched up in the paint with the Warrior’s 6’8” senior Jake Mc- Clanahan, Steward, who picked up two quick baskets and two quick fouls, missed half of the first quarter and all of the second. With Steward on the bench, the Cougars struggled on both ends of the floor — trailing 19-18 after the first quarter and 36-27 at the half.
Steward returned to start the second half and combined with Johnson to lead the Cougars’ rally that pushed LCCHS back into the lead, 48-44, heading into the final quarter. The Cougars appeared to have the game under control when they extended their lead to 54-46 with just over three minutes left to play, but poor free throw shooting in the final minutes allowed East Ridge to rally and tie the game, 59- 59, at the end of regulation.
Steward’s six points in overtime, including a pair of crucial free throws at the end, steadied the Cougars, and Johnson’s defensive stop on the Warriors’ Courtney Justice at the very end preserved the Cougars’ victory.
Justice led the Warriors with a game-high 21 points with 17 coming in the first half. McClanahan finished with 15 points, five blocked shots and three rebounds.
Steward wound up with a double double of 18 points and 10 rebounds. Johnson finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and four steals.
Both teams shot extremely well. The Cougars connected on 29/60 from the floor for 48 percent, while East Ridge connected on 28/47 for 60 percent.
The diff erence in the game was winning the rebounding battle and limiting mistakes. The Cougars won the rebounding battle 32/28 and forced 19 turnovers while committing just 11 turnovers.
Guard Brian Roark added 16 points to go with his three assists, three rebounds and two steals. Guard Cody Gregory finished with 15 points and Matt Boggs wound up with five points.
Letcher Co. Central 73
Wolfe County 50
In the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic doubleheader this past Friday evening, Dec. 10, Buckhorn rallied late to edge Harlan County and the Cougars rolled past surprisingly winless Wolfe County, 73-50, in the nightcap.
The Wolves, with a veteran team returning from last season’s 19-12 mark, fell to 0-3 and were led in scoring by Sawyer Denniston’s 15 points.
With four players in double figures, LCCHS jumped to a 22- 10 lead by the end of the opening quarter and led 34-28 at the half before breaking the game open in the third quarter. Led by Brian Roark and Logan Johnson, the Cougars outscored the Wolves 23-8 in the third quarter for a commanding 57-36 margin.
Roark scored a game-high 21 points and Johnson wound up with 17. Cody Gregory tossed in 12 points and Koree Steward just missed a double-double with 11 points and nine rebounds. Matt Neace came off the bench to score seven points. Caleb Baker chipped in with three points and Dewey Baker added two.
LCCHS’s defense limited Wolfe County to 18/43 shooting for 42 percent and forced 21 turnovers. The Cougars connected on 29/54 from the floor for 54 percent but were out-rebounded 30/25. LCCHS more than made up the diff erence with just 11 turnovers.