Cougar boys remain unbeaten after beating Christiansburg

Pulaski County’s Kyle O’Neal shoots against Christiansburg. He scored 11 points in the victory. (Brian Bishop/The Patriot)

The Pulaski County boys basketball team upped its record to 3-0 on the season Tuesday as the Cougars held on to beat Christiansburg, 61-57.

The Cougars were without the services of starters Josh Bourne (injury) and Peyton McDaniel (illness) for the game, so the rest of the squad had to step up – and did.

“We played real well. We were playing without two of our senior leaders – two guys who average double-figure scoring for us. So, we were playing without a lot of statistical numbers tonight,” commented Cougar Head Coach Tyler Cannoy.

“We just talked to our guys about stepping up and doing your job and to contribute where you can contribute, and every guy on our roster stepped up.

“We couldn’t be more proud of these guys and what they’re doing and how they’re stepping up, and that’s what we needed.”

Leading the way for the Cougars were double-figure performances by JJ Gulley, Lane Nester and Kyle O’Neal. Gulley topped all scorers on the night with 22 points. Nester added 18, while O’Neal chipped in 11.

Nester got things started for the Cougars in the first, hitting back-to-back three-point jumpers from the left corner to give Pulaski County a quick, 6-1 lead.

Nester would hit another trey before the quarter ended with Pulaski County leading 15-14.

The two teams traded baskets for much of the second quarter, with Pulaski County pushing out to a 35-28 lead. The Blue Demons closed the gap at the end of the first half when big Tyrique Taylor brought C’burg back with two layups.

The half ended with Pulaski County up, 37-32.

The Blue Demons were on fire to open the second half, scoring on three straight layups by Taylor, Jacob Moles and Austin Purcell. Purcell’s basket put Christiansburg up, 38-37 and the visitors’ first lead of the game.

Then Gulley took over.

The Cougar senior stepped up big time, with eight straight points off two layups and two short jumpers to give Pulaski County the lead again at 45-42.

With about two minutes to go in the third, Cannoy pulled his team out into a spread in an effort to force Christiansburg out of a 2-3 zone defense and neutralize Taylor.

“In the third he [Christiansburg Head Coach Mike Hunter] went 2-3 zone and we’re up five. I don’t have two guys who can stretch the floor for me so, for me offensively it just didn’t benefit me to run our offense against that zone. So we had to force them to play man-to-man. That’s what we figured out our strength was against their defense,” explained Cannoy on his strategy.

It worked.

Tyler Sutherland hit two free throws to keep the Cougars out of reach.

Nester closed out the third quarter, banking a three-pointer off the backboard as the buzzer sounded to put Pulaski County up, 50-44.

Khalib Horton and O’Neal scored on layups for the Cougars and were answered by Purcell’s three-pointer and the Cougars led, 54-47 to open the fourth.

Then Christiansburg’s two big men, Taylor and Kenyon Johnson Buchannon scored on three layups in a row to close the gap to one at 54-53 with 3:36 to go.

Gulley stopped the bleeding for the Cougars, hitting a short jumper from the left side followed with 1:45 to go by an O’Neal layup to give PCHS some breathing room at 58-53.

Taylor scored again for Christiansburg and had a chance to complete a three-point play, but missed his free throw.

The Cougars then spread the floor again.

“Late in the game when they had Tyrique on the floor – Tyrique’s a load. He’s a really good player. That’s our weakpoint as a team – being able to have post defense. So, we knew with him on the floor, they had the advantage offensively on their end, but we also had the advantage if we could spread them out. So, we spread them out and really tried to make them defend in space and Coach (Mike) Hunter had to make a decision – do you leave him defensively or do you pull him. Really just a chess match,” explained Cannoy.

Cannoy won the chess match.

Nester added some insurance with a layup before Gulley completed Pulaski County’s scoring, going one of two from the charity stripe for a 61-55 lead.

Johnson Buchannon finished the Blue Demons’ scoring with a layup and the final was 61-57 Cougars.

Friday night, the Cougars play at Radford in hopes of remaining undefeated on the season. The junior varsity game tips off at 5:30 and the varsity follows around 7 p.m.

Hoops notes:

  • Last Saturday’s home game against Carroll County was suspended with 3:39 to play due to a medical emergency involving the father of two of the Cavaliers’ players – both of whom were in the game when the incident occurred.

Pulaski County will host Carroll to complete that game, likely after the first of the year.

When play was suspended, the score was 40-39.

The Cougars defeated Carroll earlier in Pulaski County’s season opener.

  • Back on Dec. 7 the Cougars got their second win of the season with a 69-62 win over Floyd County.

Gulley led the Cougars with 21 points. Bourne added 16, McDaniel scored 13 and Nester had 10.

Other scorers for the Cougars were O’Neal with 6, Caleb Underwood had 2 and Sutherland added 1.