Playing in front of the largest home crowd of the season, the Cougars didn’t disappoint as they defeated the visiting Floyd County Bufflaoes 70-57.
Pulaski forced Caleb Tanner, the leading scorer for Floyd and most of the rest of the area, work hard for his 37 points, which is around eight points below his season average. The defensive effort by the Cougars held him to 22 points less than what he totaled earlier in the season at Floyd when he scored 59 points against Pulaski.
Tanner’s 37 points wasn’t enough as the next scorer for Floyd was point guard Preston Neukirch who was held to 8 points. The other Floyd County regular double figure scorer Jason Conduff was held scoreless. The Buffaloes had previously only loss was to Radford. The loss drops them to 9-2 and the Cougars improved to 5-6.
It’s a big “if”, but if the Cougars had hit a couple shots late against Cave Spring and Carroll County they very well could have won all three of theirs games this past week.
The improvement has been obvious the last few weeks as they have been very competitive on the season. The victory versus Floyd means they have already won more games than all of last year.
Down 14-10 after the opening period, the Cougars proceeded to outscore the Buffaloes 18-10 in the second quarter to go up 28-24 going into intermission.
The Cougars had balanced scoring with senior Lonnie Mattox leading the way with 17 points. Cam Merchant came off the bench and produced 15 points. Marcus Johnston had 8 points, and Malik Eaves improved play continued as he had 7 points.
“This is a big win for us,” said Cougar coach Mark Hanks. “We got balanced scoring and we made Tanner work for his points tonight. I thought we got great effort from the kids. This maybe the best team we’ve beaten in awhile. Tanner is going to score but he didn’t get a lot of easy baskets tonight. We are improving, but we still have lot of room for more.”
Pulaski County was up 60-45 with 3:43 remaining, when the Buffaloes went on an 8-2 run to cut the Cougar lead to 62-53. The Cougars then regained some of their composure and discipline, as Cam Merchant, Tyler Blevins and Miguel Garcia hit big shots and free throws to seal the victory down the stretch.
The Cougar JV squad (8-3) won their fifth consecutive with a 61-36 drubbing of the young Buffaloes.
The Cougars get back into district play as they travel to Christiansburg tonight and host Salem Friday. JV action starts at 5:30 and varsity action at 7 p.m. both nights. Come support the players and coaches and hopefully see them improve some more.