BELFRY — The Belfry boys basketball team defeated Phelps by a count of 77-50 last Monday in the semifinals of the 60th district tournament at BHS but then moved on to face Pike Central in the championship game Thursday night and fell by a final score of 58-40.
It was the Pirates third straight defeat at the hands of the Hawks this season, with the other losses coming on January 17 at PCHS (61-53) and January 26 at Belfry (60-31).
Belfry (9-23) led 7-6 with 4:08 left in the first quarter and then led 12-6 at the 1:49 mark after a three and a layup from Noah Brown.
However, Central cut their deficit to one at 12-11 to end the period after a trey from Peyton Compton with eight tenths of a second left on the game clock.
The Bucs went on a 9-0 run to open the second quarter, and they led 21-11 with 3:26 left in the frame following a three from Cody Erwin.
Their momentum didn’t last long as the Hawks closed out the first half on a 9-2 run which was capped off by two baskets from Peyton Owens, one with 42 seconds until the break and one as the second period buzzer went off, but Belfry still led 23-20 going into halftime.
The game was tightly contested for most of the third stanza as both teams exchanged buckets. Pike Central’s Jaylan Rigdon buried a triple to put the Hawks ahead 32-28 with 1:09 left in the third quarter.
Belfry’s Cayden Varney then converted a layup with 12 seconds left to make it 32-30, but Owens answered with a layup of his own with four seconds on the clock to put PC ahead by four at 34-30 going into the fourth period.
Things fell apart for the Pirates in the final quarter as Pike Central opened it on a 15-3 run to all but ice the game. They led 49-33 with 2:25 left in the ballgame, and they rolled to a 58-40 win to claim the district title.
Erwin led the Bucs in scoring on the night with 15 points while knocking down four threes and going one of two from the free throw line. Eric Daniels scored nine points and went one of three from the charity stripe. Brown had six tallies with a trey and a one of two mark from the line.
Varney added five points and hit one of his three foul shots while Jonathan Banks’ only basket on the night was a triple in the first quarter. Caden Woolum contributed two points with his only score coming in the second frame.
BHS head coach Michael Hagy felt like his squad executed their game plan perfectly in the first half and then admitted that they couldn’t make shots in the final two stanzas.
He said the Bucs were there and they had a good game plan but that they just ran out of gas, citing that they were fatigued and had dead legs in the second half. Hagy accepted the blame for that.
The Pirates started the 2022-2023 season 1-12 and then went 8-10 over their next 18 games. In that sense, Hagy knows his team has come a long way despite the loss on Thursday night.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Hagy said after the game. “We’ve came so far this year after the 1-12 start. They didn’t quit on me. They stayed focused. I think Pike Central now knows that, I think we gained a little respect from them.”
The Belfry head coach said that the Pirates have played a tough slate of games this year and that they lost a lot of offense from last season.
“Early on, we just didn’t compete, and I challenged them,” Hagy said. “We started playing harder and shots started falling. We are playing our best basketball here down at the end of the season, and that’s all you can ask for.”
Belfry drew 58th District Champion Lawrence County (18-14) as their opponent in the first round of the 15th Region Tournament at the Appalachian Wireless Arena in Pikeville.
The only matchup this year between the Bucs and Bulldogs came on January 3, a 72-61 Lawrence win in the Kentucky 2A Championship Sectional Tournaments, and the two teams will square off again on Wednesday with the winner taking on Martin County or Shelby Valley on Saturday evening.
For the Pirates to surprise and make a run in the 15th region bracket, Hagy says it will come down to whether or not they can make shots.
“We’re going to get out and we’re going to put a game plan together, and defensively we’re going to battle,” Hagy said. “We’re just going to have to make shots. That’s the thing with us. When we make shots, we play with anybody in our region. But we just don’t always make shots. Defensively, we’ll be there.”
Belfry and Lawrence County will tipoff at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday in Pikeville.
Score by quarters
PCCHS: 11 9 14 24 — 58
BHS: 12 11 7 10 — 40
PC: J. Rigdon 28, P. Compton 9, J. Stewart 8, B. Biliter 4, P. Owens 4, B. Adams 3, I. Reynolds 2,
B: C. Erwin 15, E. Daniels 9, N. Brown 9, C. Varney 5, C. Woolum 2