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Cougars shock Salem on Senior Night

By DAVID GRAVELY

sports@southwesttimes.com

 

Mike Turner/SWT – Hayden Gray fights for two points Thursday against Salem.

The excitement hung in the air like a fog. The crowd was large and loud. The seniors were recognized before the start of the varsity contest and to top it all off, it was Pulaski County versus Salem. The Cougars versus the Spartans. All that was needed was a spark, and that spark finally came in the fourth quarter as the Cougars earned a much-needed 75-68 victory over the visiting Spartans.

 

Things were back and forth through much of the contest. The Cougars trailed 12-14 at the end of the first quarter, but put in just enough work and hustle to lead 36-34 at the half. Salem rallied back, taking the 55-44 lead into the final period.

 

Trailing by a point to start the fourth quarter, Pulaski County found a way to get the job done. Senior Hayden Gray, who scored 22 points for the night, was held to just two points in the final period. Insert the next man into the equation. Sophomore Josh Bourne scored six of his nine points in the final quarter. Senior Peyton Blackburn added a fourth-quarter three-pointer to bring his game total to nine points, all on long shots. Sophomore JJ Gulley added two huge three-pointers in the fourth quarter, bringing him to 14 total points for the game. Senior Luke Russell added three of his eight points during the fourth and junior AJ McCloud score one of his eight points in the final period.

 

In the end, the Cougars outscored Salem 21-13 in the fourth quarter to finish the regular season with a record of 10-12, just good enough to earn the fourth seed in the River Ridge District Tournament. That show gets underway Saturday, Feb. 15, and ends Tuesday, Feb. 18. The Cougars will also play in the Region 4D tournament, taking on Halifax County on the road in the tournament opener. That game is set for Friday, Feb. 21.

 

“I’m proud of our guys and their efforts,” Cougar Head Coach Tyler Cannoy said. “We’ve had to overcome a lot this season. We’re still learning each other and growing. This was a big win for us and our program, but it’s really great for our seniors. They’ve been great leaders for us this season and I’m really happy we could get this win for them and our entire team.”

 

In addition to the points mentioned above, junior Chris Hay added three points and junior Clay Phillips scored two. Salem was led by Ethan English with 19 points and AJ Blankenship with 11. Hayden Conner chipped in eight and Chauncey Logon and Alex Blanchard added seven each.

 

The junior varsity contest did not go as well for the Cougars, who dropped their final game of the season to the Spartans 34-39.

 

Next up for the Cougars will be a trip to Hidden Valley Saturday to take on the top team in the district, the undefeated Patrick Henry Patriots. That game is set for 5 p.m.

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