By the end of the game everyone at Memorial Gym knew what the 57th District title meant to these two teams.
It was a rough, physical, fast paced game that saw the Tigers almost pull off the unthinkable – winning the title as the four seed.
They had already knocked off the No. 1 seed Magoffin County, ending their season early.
They fell just short of winning it all in the district losing to Martin County 66-62.
Things started out a little slow for Paintsville, trailing the Cardinals 10-4 midway through the first quarter.
Back-to-back shots by Connor Fugate pumped life into the Tigers however, who wrestled away the lead at the 2:49 mark in the first quarter. At the end of one, it was the Tigers on top 19-18.
Paintsville built on that lead to start the second quarter with Brock Woods laying in an easy basket to make it 21-18.
Momentum slowed for the Tigers however and at the 4:44 mark the Cardinals had taken back the lead, 26-25.
The two teams battled back and forth throughout the remainder of the second quarter, but by intermission it was Martin County on top 39-33.
The Cardinals continued where they left off in the second half, with Brayden McKenzie knocking down a quick three to make it 44-35, and by the end of three it was Martin County holding a five point lead, 50-45.
Connor Fugate tied things up for the Tigers on a set of free-throws to make it 52-52 with just over five minutes remaining.
Jacob Sturgell grabbed the lead back for the Cardinals off an inbound pass to make it 54-52 at the 4:20 mark of the final quarter.
They extended that lead to four points on the next drive after forcing a turnover by Jase Kinner.
At the 3:33 mark it was again Fugate laying up a contested shot to make close the gap back down to two.
The Cardinals answered again with Sturgell to make it 58-54.
Anderson Lauffer kept Paintsville back in it though when he picked Sturgell’s pocket for an easy layup to cut it back down to two one more time.
With 2:19 remaining in the game the Cardinals pulled back ahead with McKenzie on the layup to make it 60-56, and just a few seconds later Ethan Cole answered with a shot to keep the Tigers within striking distance.
With just under a minute remaining, the lead for the Cardinals grew to six points.
The Tigers trailed 64-58, and were unable to mount a charge, falling to Martin County 66-62.
Fugate led the charge for Paintsville bringing in 29 points and 12 rebounds. Cole had 10 points and two rebounds. Lauffer had nine points. Woods had eight points and six rebounds.
Paintsville moves on to face Pikeville in the opening round of the 15th Region Tournament. Tipoff is set for 6:30 p.m. on March 2.
Magoffin County 60
It was looking like Magoffin County’s year.
Landon Slone and his Paintsville Tigers had other plans though.
Those plans included a trip to Pikeville and the 15th Region Tournament and a chance at a 57th District title as they took down the No. 1 seed Magoffin County Hornets on Tuesday night in a 63-60 overtime victory.
The Tigers – the fourth seed in the 57th District – were 0-6 against district opponents until February 10 when they took down the Cardinals at home.
Connor Fugate paced the Tigers with 31 points and AJ James came up clutch in the final moments at the free-throw line to put it out of reach for the Tigers.
Brock Woods had a career game. The eighth-grader had 13 points, four rebounds, one block and one steal.
Overall, it was a total team effort for the Tigers.
Magoffin County looked strong to start out, outpacing the Tigers 11-8 after one quarter.
The second quarter belonged to the Tigers as they outscored the Hornets 20-9 to give them a 28-20 halftime lead.
The Hornets outscored the Tigers in the third and fourth quarters to battle out nine different lead changes, however at the end of four quarters of action it was all tied up.
The start of overtime saw the two teams tied at 50-50 with a chance to go to Pikeville on the line.
Connor Fugate quickly drained a three-pointer to give his team the lead.
Aden Barnett of the Hornets answered with a trey to tie things up.
Ethan Cole drove down the lane for the Tigers to put them back ahead, 55-53.
Again, it was Barnett with the answer as he did the same thing at the 2:25 mark to make it 55-55.
Fugate knocked down a bucket on the ensuing drive for the Tigers to regain the lead 57-55.
The Hornets struggled to find a shot and turned the ball over and with 46 seconds left in overtime, it was Fugate once again at the free-throw line. He knocked down both free-throws to add to his total (14 of 17 on the night).
With time running out, Magoffin County had to foul to regain possession of the ball.
Unfortunately for Scott Castle and his Hornets the Tigers were able to knock down those free-throws, including AJ James hitting four-of-four in two trips to the charity stripe to seal the deal for Paintsville.
The Tigers pulled off the 63-60 upset to end the No. 1 seed Magoffin County’s season early.
The win allowed the Tigers to advance to the 57th District championship and guaranteed a spot in the 15th Region Tournament.