After a season-opening loss at Harlan County, the Letcher Central Cougars have rebounded to win five in a row to raise their record to a surprising 5-1.
The Cougars are led by sophomore guard Torell Carter, who is still learning the guard position and how to involve his teammates in the offense. The major thing about these Cougars is that they are tenacious on defense; they just refuse to quit.
The Cougars are playing this weekend in the four-team, twoday Hyden Bank Christmas Tournament at Leslie County High School. The Cougars play Meade County Friday afternoon, with the tip-off scheduled for 4 p.m. Letcher Central plays host Leslie County on Saturday, with the tipoff scheduled for noon.
Letcher Central 72
Belfry 69 (OT)
The host Letcher Central Cougars rallied in the second half against a hot-shooting Belfry team to win their fifth straight, 72-69, in overtime, and raise their record to 5-1.
Carter’s outstanding effort on both ends of the floor — 34 points and 12 rebounds — was not just a one-man effort. His supporting and largely anonymous cast (seniors Hunter Hall and Isaiah Wallace and juniors Tyler Collins and Jordan Gregory) refused to quit even when Belfry took a seemingly safe 66-61 lead with 1:32 left in regulation.
Down five, Austin Banks hit a trey and after the Cougars came up with a steal, Isaiah Wallace’s stickback of a Carter miss allowed LCCHS to tie the game at 66-66 with 18 seconds left.
Junior guard Garrett Fannin’s three-point play pushed Belfry back in front, 69-66, with 3:50 left to play, but the Cougars’ defense then rose up and shut the Pirates down.
Hunter Hall converted one-oftwo from the charity line with 2:12 left to cut Belfry’s lead to 69-67. LCCHS then rebounded a missed shot and Fannin, who led Belfry with a team-high 28 points, committed his fourth foul and capped that off with an angry slamming of the ball to the court to earn him a technical foul and a seat on the bench with five fouls and 29 seconds left to play.
Carter, who has been deadly from the charity line in the previous games, made both free throws for the personal foul and then made one-of-two technical foul shots and LCCHS led 70-69.
LCCHS also retained possession on the technical foul and Carter was fouled with 20 seconds remaining and converted both for a 72-69 LCCHS lead. Carter was 16/22 from the charity line for the game.
Belfry, with Fannin on the bench and LCCHS defenders in the face of shooters on the perimeter, threw up an air ball in the final seconds.
The Pirates were 7/14 from behind the arc while LCCHS was just 2/14. Belfry converted 25/59 field goal attempts for 42 percent. LCCHS made 22/56 for 39 percent. LCCHS outrebounded Belfry 45-38.
Hot-shooting Belfry led 14- 4 midway of the first quarter, but LCCHS closed to within 18-13 by the end of the opening quarter. Trailing 32-27 at the half, LCCHS took its first lead at 45-44 on Jordan Gregory’s trey with 2:47 left in the third quarter. LCCHS led 51-47 after three quarters, but Belfry tied the score at 57-57 on Fannin’s trey midway of the fourth quarter. The Pirates then took the lead at 60-57 on Nathan Copley’s trey, with 3:22 left in regulation. Copley, who finished with 19 points, extended Belfry’s lead to 66-61 with 1:32 left in regulation and set the scene for the Cougars’ furious finish.
Gregory finished with 15 points for LCCHS. Hunter Hall chipped in with nine points and six rebounds and Isiah Wallace finished with six points, seven rebounds and two of the Cougars’ game-high nine steals. Tyler Collins added five points, six rebounds and two steals and Austin Banks finished with three points.
Letcher Central 53
After a long bus ride, the visiting Letcher Central Cougars, led again by sophomore guard Torell Carter, defeated previously unbeaten (3-0) Phelps 53- 46 on December 11 to raise their record to 4-1.
A very deliberate and disciplined team on offense, the Cougars, who never trailed after the early minutes, led 15-13 after the first quarter, 28-23 at the half and 38-35 after three quarters.
Carter, who scored 20 of his team’s points in the first three quarters, scored 12 of the Cougars’ final 15 points and finished with a gamehigh 32 points. Carter was 16/18 from the charity line.
Junior Tyler Collins finished with 10 points — all in the first half. Collins and Carter played a lot of minutes in the second half with four fouls.
Hunter Hall chipped in with five points and Jordan Gregory added four. Austin Banks scored two points.
Freshman guard Colston Blankenship’s 14 points led 3-1 Phelps. Steven Prater added 10.
Letcher Central 55
Union (Va.) 41
The Letcher County Central Cougars displayed an effective full-court defensive pressure and 39 points by sophomore guard Torell Carter to defeat visiting Union High School 55-41 December 9.
Carter, who has been lighting up the scoreboard this early season, is averaging nearly 33 points per game after four games. Against a much taller and very talented team and against fresh defensive players every few minutes, Carter managed 16 first half points as LCCHS rallied from an early 11-2 deficit to trail just 25-24 at the break. In the second half, it was Carter taking control with 23 points. He also helped his team defensively with five rebounds — including four rebounds and three steals — in the second half. All this offensively, and Carter had just two turnovers.
Speaking of turnovers, the LCCHS defensive pressure forced Union into 23 turnovers — which even a talented team cannot overcome against a team making just seven turnovers.
Union, showing its opening game rawness, became frustrated after opening a big early lead and took out its frustration with fouls. In all, four players fouled out. LCCHS made Union pay by going to the charity line and converting 21/29 with 15/21 coming in the second half.
Carter’s three-point play with 4:19 left in the third quarter tied the game at 29-29 and Austin Banks’s trey with 1:44 left in the third pushed LCCHS back in front 32-29. Banks finished with eight points.
James Mitchell’s layup with 7:04 left to play gave Union its final lead at 33-32. Mitchell led the 0-1 Bears with 16 points and seven rebounds. Jake Barnett added 13 points and 10 rebounds. Both players fouled out in the final minute.
Carter’s trey gave LCCHS the lead at 36-33 with 5:42 remaining. Over the final four minutes, Carter scored 12 of LCCHS’s final 16 points.
Union outrebounded LCCHS 41- 24 and shot 43 percent (18/42) while LCCHS shot 33 percent (15/46).
Smallish (6’ 0”) senior forward Hunter Hall battled inside and led the team with five rebounds and scored two points. Jordan Gregory chipped in with five points, four rebounds and three assists. Isaiah Wallace scored one point.