Maroons hold off Harlan County to stay perfect on season


Steve Cornelius

Pulaski County High School senior Zach Travis scored a game-high 30 points in the undefeated Maroons’ victory over Harlan County High School on Tuesday night.

By Doug Eads, Somerset Commonwealth Journal

In his last three games played over the past nine days, Harlan County’s Trent Noah had scored 66, 40, and 48 points respectively in games against Cordia, South Laurel, and most recently against Corbin.
Averaging 30 points per game for the year, the Black Bear sophomore guard rolled into The PC Gym on Tuesday night figuring to give the state’s number three-ranked and undefeated Pulaski County Maroons a run for their money.
The Black Bears did indeed give the Maroons all they wanted and then some, all the way down to the final seconds of the game, but in the end, Harlan County became victim number 22 for John Fraley and crew.
Pulaski County’s Zach Travis tallied a game-high 30 points, made two key plays at crunch time inside the game’s final minute, and held Noah — along with some help from his teammates — to a season-low five points.
As a result, John Fraley and the Maroons withstood a furious, fourth-quarter rally by the Black Bears to remain perfect on the season, improving to 22-0 on the year with a hard-fought, 69-65 victory over Harlan County, in a game that very much resembled a regional tournament atmosphere.
“Harlan County is a very good basketball team and coach (Mike) Jones does a great job,” pointed out Fraley, immediately following the contest.
“(Trent) Noah is a really nice player, and I thought Zach (Travis) and all of us — it was a team effort — everybody out there did a really good job of helping Zach on him,” continued Fraley. “This was a regional tournament-type of game. We had a little stretch there in the fourth quarter after we got up by 10 points where we didn’t go on and play, but instead, we got a little hesitant.”
Pulaski County led for much of the first half — was up by as many as six points on several occasions — but with Noah having an off night by his own lofty standards, his teammates more that picked up the slack.
Daniel Carmical — who scored 12 points in the game on the strength of four made three-point hoops — led the Black Bears with six first half points, and helped his club rally from a 25-19 deficit late in the half to knot things up at 26-26.
That’s when Pulaski County’s Caden Lancaster — who tallied 14 points in the win for the Maroons — hit a three-pointer of his own with only :07 left in the second quarter, giving Fraley and company a 29-26 lead going in at the intermission.
In the third quarter, Pulaski County came out like a house on fire, led by ‘The Big Three’ of Travis, Lancaster, and Gavin Stevens.
Lancaster scored seven points in the third stanza, while Travis and Stevens each added six points in the frame, helping PC go up by its biggest lead of the night of 11 points.
Leading Harlan County 49-40 headed into the fourth quarter, Pulaski County still had things under control, but not for long as Harlan County put forth a furious, fourth quarter comeback bid.
Jeremiah Clem’s three-point bucket that rattled in with :59 left in the game brought the Black Bears to within a single digit of PC at 63-62, forcing Fraley to call a much-needed timeout.
Coming out of that timeout, Travis hit a pair of free throws with :46 left on the clock, easing the lead back out to three points at 65-62.
Then, the PC senior guard came up with a steal on the other end of the floor, and went in for an emphatic dunk — his third of the night — and the Maroons led this one 67-62 with only :20 remaining in the game.
Also in that PC flurry coming down the stretch was a huge defensive play by Lancaster, who took a charge for a Harlan County turnover, giving the Maroons the basketball. Also huge was Stevens, who was simply money for PC from the charity stripe, going a perfect four for four when his club needed every one of those points.
Simply put, Pulaski County — 21-0 on the season coming into the game, and newly ranked this week by The Associated Press Poll as the third best team in the state of Kentucky — was pushed to the limit on Tuesday evening by a very good Harlan County basketball team, and John Fraley’s club answered the bell at crunch time.
“When we really needed to sit down and guard there at the end, ‘Lanny’ (Cayden Lancaster) took a big charge there at the end of the game that was a huge play,” pointed out Fraley.
“That was a huge charge there, and that kid had gone down and scored four or six straight points on us, so that was huge. Then, we rebounded when we needed to rebound, and we made some big free throws.”
Travis led all scorers in the game with 30 points, while Stevens added 19 for PC, and Lancaster chipped in with 14 points.
Harlan County, which fell to 16-7 on the season, was led by Jonah Swanner’s 16 points, while Maddox Huff added 15 points, and Carmical and Jackson Huff each added 12 points.
For Pulaski County, the Maroons remain the only undefeated boys team in the state, and Fraley says he is enjoying a very special team that is enjoying a very special season indeed.
“It’s been a lot fun,” he said. “I’ve got such a great group of kids, and they play hard, and they play for each other. They’re fun to watch, and they make my job so much easier.”
Pulaski County will try to keep it going on Friday as the Maroons will welcome in the Rockcastle County Rockets for a 47th District matchup in a girls-boys doubleheader. Harlan County will travel to Breathitt County on Thursday.
Will Blankenship scored 17 polnts to lead Pulask County to a 42-22 junior varsity victory.
Ethan Simpson led the 6-4 Bears with seven points. Jaycee Carter scored six, followed by Brody Napier with five and Hunter Napier with four.
Pulaski County (69) — Carson Fraley 2, Gavin Stevens 17, Cayden Lancaster 14, Zach Travis 32, Caleb Slone 2, Jace Frye 2.
Harlan County (65) — Maddox Huff 15, Trent Noah 5, Daniel Carmical 12, Jonah Swanner 16, Jackson Huff 12, Jeremiah Clem 5.