PIKEVILLE, Ky. — The Belfry Pirates dream of bringing a third 15th Region Championship back home to Pond Creek came to an end on Friday night at Appalachian Wireless Arena as the Paintsville Tigers sent them home with a 55-51 win in the 15th Region Tournament Semifinals.
The two teams were knotted up at 42 apiece with just under three minutes to play in the game after a long three from Belfry senior Tyler Chaffin tied it up when Paintsville star Colby Fugate finished an and-one on 7’3” Pirate center Bol Kuir to give his team the lead and they never looked back.
The Tigers finished the game 18-19 from the foul line which proved to be the difference in the game as they hit every foul shot down to stretch to keep the Pirates, who kept trying to battle back, at bay.
Sophomore guard De’Mahjae Clark led the way for BHS as he finished with 16 points on 5-8 shooting from the field while dishing five assists and picking up two steals.
Chaffin also played a solid final contest in the red-and-white as he totaled 13 points and six rebounds.
Belfry’s leading scorer Sal Dean, who came in averaging 16 points per game, was held to only five points on 2-12 shooting. Dean did contribute a team high eight rebounds and six assists.
Kuir, who came in averaging 14 points and 13 rebounds per game, was also held in check by the Tigers as he finished the game with six points, six rebounds, and three blocked shots.
Sophomore Steven Banks scored seven points off the bench on 3-3 shooting while senior Caleb Spears rounded out the scoring with four.
Senior Ben McNamee came into the game averaging 9.3 points for and four boards for BHS but did not contribute a point or a rebound as he only played 10 minutes due to foul trouble.
BHS shot 17-44 from the field for the game good for 38 percent, including 3-11 from deep. They were only 14-21 from the foul line.
Connor Fugate led Paintsville with 24 points, including 10-11 from the charity-stripe, while his brother Colby Fugate was right behind him with 20. The Tigers went on to advance to Rupp Arena as they won the 15th Region Championship with a 48-46 win over Johnson Central in OT.
The Pirates reached the semifinal round on Friday night with a 63-46 victory in the quarterfinals on Tuesday against Shelby Valley.
Head coach Mark Thompson’s club trailed by two at 25-23 at the break, but the Pirates came out of the locker room and tightened up their matchup zone holding the Wildcats to only seven third quarter points as they took a 36-32 lead into the fourth.
Belfry went on an 13-2 lead to begin the fourth quarter as they took a 49-34 lead following a basket by Kuir and never looked back cruising to the 17 point win.
The Pirates had a balanced attack against the Wildcats with five players scoring eight of more points.
Clark led the way with 16 points, five rebounds, and three steals, Dean followed him with 15 points and seven boards, while McNamee added 13 points and six boards.
Chaffin was right behind them with nine points, Kuir added eight, and Spears scored a bucket.
The loss for the Pirates sees their season come to a close with a 17-10 record and two games shy of advancing to the KHSAA Sweet 16 for only the third time in school history.
Coach Thompson will say goodbye to Chaffin, McNamee, and Spears who were all seniors but will welcome back every other player on the roster, including the top three scorers in Dean, Clark, and Kuir.