By RODNEY YOUNG, SWT Sports Writer
The Cougars improvement continued Friday as they upended the visiting Salem Spartans by the score of 63-59.
Playing hard and good defense, the home team jumped out to a 16-11 advantage in the opening quarter behind a couple of deep 3-pointers from Malik Eaves .
The second quarter play was still good until the final four minutes, as Salem went on a 12-4 run to cut the Cougars margin to two. The teams went to the locker room with a 29-27 score at halftime.
The first half lead was exchanged at least five times as the Cougars played the Salem Spartans nose to nose.
Salem (7-5, 3-3) came out of the locker room in the second half and went on a five to zero run to go up 32-27. They went on to outscore the Cougars 15-10 in the quarter and led 42-39 going to the decisive fourth quarter.
Pulaski County took the lead back, 47-46, on a Lonnie Mattox bucket and proceeded to hold the lead until Salem tied it up again at 54-54 with 1:40 remaining with an Austin Coulling put back. Mattox would hit a point blank shot and was fouled on the play. He then got the old fashion 3-pointer to put them up 57-54 with 1:26 to go. Up 59-55, Mattox stole a Spartan pass and hit a bucket for a 61-55 lead with 23 seconds to go.
The Spartans leading scorer on the season, Troy Mann, would hit a downtown three with 13 seconds left to cut it to 61-58. They would steal a Cougar pass and were fouled, and Will Pratt hit one of two freebies to cut the lead to just two points. Salem would foul Mattox with just 5.8 seconds remaining, and he hit one of two to make it 62-59.
The Cougars (7-6,4-3) forced a turnover and Tyler Blevins was fouled on the inbound pass. He hit one of two to put the game into the win column. This was the third consecutive win for Pulaski County, and it moves the team into third place in district play.
“I’m proud of the guys tonight,” said Cougar Head Coach Mark Hanks. “We executed down the floor the last three times or so tonight. We need to win games like this and just maybe we can get some confidence .”
When asked if there’s one thing that has been the big improvement the last three weeks or so Coach Hanks knew immediately what the change was.
“We are guarding people better. Roles have been more defined,” said Hanks.
The last two games at home the Cougars have faced two big time scorers in Caleb Tanner of Floyd and Mann tonight of Salem. Both walked out of the Cougar Den held below their season average.
Three Cougars ended up in double digits, with Malik Eaves scoring a team and game high 18 points. He had help as Mattox scored 15 points, with 10 of those scored in the fourth quarter. Cam Merchant came of the bench to produce 13.
Salem got 15 points from Mann. Devonte Joyce scored 14 and Austin Coulling chipped in with 11 points.
The Cougar ( 9-4) junior varsity saw their six game winning streak come to a squeaking halt ,as they lost 72-51.
Pulaski County will be on the road next week as they travel to Patrick Henry on Tuesday and Hidden Valley on Friday. Both nights the junior varsity starts at 5:30 and the varsity tilt at 7 p.m.
PC 16 13 10 24 – 63
S 11 16 15 17 – 59
PC – Eaves 18, Mattox 15, Merchant 13, Blevins 6, Johnston 6, Garcia 5
S – Mann 15, Joyce 14, Coulling 11, Pratt 10, Rose 6, Parker 3
3-PT Goals – PC – 5 (Eaves 4, Merchant), Salem – 5(Mann 3, Pratt 2)