It was a gutsy effort. Down six going into the fourth quarter Pulaski County rallied strong and knocked off Christiansburg, 53-50 Friday evening at PCHS. The win pushed the Cougars to 7-8 on the season and dropped the Blue Demons to 11-5.
Christiansburg led 40-34 going into the fourth quarter in a game that saw both teams struggle to find any consistent offense. But after a 19-19 halftime tie, the Demons closed hard in the third quarter behind seven points from Matt Collins and six from Tyrique Taylor to lead 40-34.
But everything changed in the fourth. Pulaski Co. played a hustling, hard nosed man to man defense, and Christiansburg missed its first seven shots. It wasn’t until there was only 3:13 left in the game before the Demons scratched from the field. By then the Cougars had gone from six down to six up.
The first half of the fourth quarter A.J. McCloud found room in the paint and drove to the basket. He scored two layups and hit six of eight free throws for 10 big fourth quarter points. Then down the stretch Chris Hay came off the bench to hit five of six free throws when the Cougars had to have them to hang onto the three-point win, a victory the Cougars really needed.
“I was very proud of our boys for overcoming adversity of injury to win a tough River Ridge game. Chayton Rollins did a fantastic job offensively and defensively for us. We had to have something tough inside tonight and he was it. Chayton is really coming into his stride. Jaydon Gray did a great job late in the second half of controlling our temp and getting us the shots we wanted to finish the game. Our emphasis all year has been on defense and I feel like our guys are really understanding what we want, and they’re working hard. Chris Hay did a fantastic job of stepping up in crunch time to knock down those free throws. We tell our guys all the time that everyone on the roster can help us in some way, just have to be ready when your name is called, and Chris was ready,” said a happy Pulaski County head coach Tyler Cannoy.
Turnovers were also a huge factor in the game. The Demons gave the ball away 22 times. The Cougars had some ball handling problems at times too and turned the ball over 15 times, but down the stretch, it didn’t happen. Pulaski County was also playing without two of its primary players in guards Josh Bourne and Luke Russell.
But even with the turnover woes and poor fourth quarter shooting, Christiansburg still made five more baskets than Pulaski Co. The Demons were 21 of 48 from the field, 43%. The Cougars 16 of 34, 47%.
The margin came at the free throw line. The Demons picked up numerous fouls as Pulaski Co. drove to the basket. Rollins shut down the Demons’ big man inside, Taylor, and the outside shots just kept clanging off the rim.
It was 10-10 at the end of the first quarter, and 19-19 at the half as scoring was a challenge for both teams. The Demons had the big close in the third, but the fourth belonged to the clutch play of the Cougars who scored 22 points during the final eight minutes, easily their most productive quarter of the game.
Christiansburg was led by Taylor’s inside prescense, except when the Cougar defense put the clamps on him in the fourth quarter. Taylor was six of 10 from the field, and three of four from the free throw line for a game high 16 points. Collins finished with 12 for the Demons and Aiden Proudfoot hit three, 3-point shots for nine points.
McCloud was four of six from the field, and seven of 10 from the charity stripe for the game for 15 points. Gray and Peyton Blackburn both contributed 10 points to the cause, J.J. Gully got eight and Rollins seven, but none were bigger for the Cougars than Hay’s five of six from the line the final two minutes.
Christiansburg was eight of 12 from the free throw line, and Pulaski Co. 21 of 33, and those 13 additional made free throws was the difference in the game.
By DAN CALLAHAN, The Patriot