Photo | Scott Warren

The Knox Central Panthers advanced to their sixth straight district championship game after defeating the Pineville Mountain Lions 89-37 in their district semi-final game at Barbourville Independent on Tuesday night.

The Panthers’ offense was too much for the under-manned Mountain Lions. Knox Central broke the century mark before halftime, taking a 53-23 lead into the locker room at the half. Pineville only managed three points in the third quarter, effectively ending any hopes of a comeback. The Panthers put their reserves in the game late in the third, and they remained through the fourth, allowing Knox Central to cruise to a decisive victory, and punch their ticket to their sixth straight title game.

Knox Central was led in scoring by Isaac Mills with 27 points. He was followed by JeVonte Turner with 17 points, KT Turner with 12 points, Blake Ledford with nine points, Bryce Imel with seven points, Dalton Pilarski with five points, Mikey Mills with three points, Andrew Sizemore with two points, and Abe Brock with two points.

Pineville was led in scoring by Keean Fuson with 10 points. He was followed by Sean Phipps with nine points, Devon “Scooby” Morris with five points, Evan Biliter with four points, Ashton Burns with three points, and Logunn Littles with two points.

Following the game, Knox Central coach Tony Patterson stated that he thought his team played some of their best defense of the season. He also drew to attention the unselfish nature of the team.

“We haven't played in eight or 10 days,” he said. “We were able to get out and get a few buckets early, and that began to snowball. These kids are hungry. That’s some of the best defense we have played all year. That’s a promising sign at this point in the season. Everything is starting to click for us at a good time. Hopefully we can carry that into the championship game.”

On advancing to his sixth straight championship game, Patterson highlighted that his team has one goal: win.

“”We play to win,” he said. “We play to win no matter who it is or what time of year it is. These kids are winners and they’ve changed the culture here. They have a winning mentality, and that’s all they want to do. They don’t care who gets the credit for what, they just want to win ball games.”

Following his team’s final game of the season, Pineville coach Brad Levy praised Knox Central, and drew attention to his seniors that would be departing following graduation this year,

“They (Knox Central) are a really good team,” he said. “I expect them to even be doing that in the regional tournament to be honest. Hats off to those guys for a great game. We are going to be losing a lot of productivity with these seniors. Sean and Keean are about 45 of our team’s points right now, and that’s a lot to replace. Gionni and Timmy didn’t see the floor as much as we would have liked, but they’ve contributed great amounts to this school and this basketball program. We don’t have the luxury of refilling and reloading every single year with a new group. We are going to continue to focus on development and hard work. If you build a program on that, you can sustain for years to come.”

“I’m proud of these guys this season,” he added. “We did a lot of things that we can build on. We swept Middlesboro for the first time in five years, we opened with a big win over Perry County Central, a team that makes the state tournament about every three years, we matched last season’s win total in seven less games -- there’s a lot we can build on. That’s what we are going to do.”

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