Rebels battle back, take Sweet 16 opener, 70-56 – See photo gallery
Published 7:31 pm Thursday, April 1, 2021
LEXINGTON — It took some time, but Boyle County finally got its way — and gets to stay — at the Boys Sweet Sixteen.
The Rebels played from behind for most of three quarters before finishing with a flourish to defeat Paintsville 70-56 in a first-round game Thursday at Rupp Arena.
Boyle rallied from a double-digit deficit, outscoring Paintsville 30-15 in the fourth quarter to advance to Friday’s quarterfinal round.
“It took a while, and I wasn’t too sure it was going to happen, but I think we finally wore them down a little bit,” Boyle coach Dennie Webb said.
Seemingly everything went Boyle’s way in the fourth quarter as the Rebels rolled into a 5 p.m. quarterfinal against Knox Central or Ashland Blazer.
The Rebels (22-4) outscored Paintsville 30-15 in the final period, taking the lead with a 9-0 run early in the period and putting the Tigers (15-9) away with an 8-0 run in the homestretch.
Prior to the fourth quarter, things weren’t going so great for the Rebels. They turned the ball over 10 times in the first half and trailed by 11 points early in the second half.
“We didn’t play very well for a long time,” Webb said. “We made it ugly early. I think it was a little bit of nerves being on this stage. But the guys settled in … and we got that edge back. We talk about that a lot: ‘We’ve got to get that edge defensively.’”
That’s exactly what Boyle did. Paintsville turned the ball over only twice in the first half but 14 times in the second, including nine times in a third quarter that saw the Tigers take their largest lead and then give it all back.
As it has done so well throughout the season, Boyle turned its physical style of defense into offense, scoring 21 points off Paintsville’s second-half turnovers.
“Our execution in the second half wasn’t there,” Paintsville coach Landon Slone said. “We turned the ball over way too much in the second half. They turned their pressure up.”
By the time Luke Sheperson punctuated Boyle’s win with a one-handed dunk in the final minute, the Rebels had beaten Paintsville into submission.
“They played very physical defense,” Paintsville forward Colby Fugate said. “We just kept turning it over, and we weren’t getting what we wanted.”
Boyle, making its fifth Sweet Sixteen appearance, notched its third win in seven state tournament games.
Sheperson led the Rebels with 25 points and eight rebounds. Jagger Gillis scored 19 points and Luke Imfeld added 17 for Boyle, which was making its fifth Sweet Sixteen appearance and is now 3-4 in state tournament games.
Owen Barnes had six rebounds and five assists, Gillis had five rebounds and four assists, Imfeld had six rebounds and Jakei Tarter had five boards for Boyle.
The Rebels shot 50 percent from the field, sank 17 of 22 free throws, and outrebounded the Tigers 35-19.
The one thing Boyle didn’t do well in a first half in which it trailed for all but about two minutes was take care of the basketball. They committed 10 turnovers that resulted in 12 Painstville points.
“I think what led to (the turnovers) was just nerves,” Webb said. “At halftime, we tried to calm them down and say, ‘Look, we had 10 turnovers. Let’s cut that down to five in the second half and we’ll be fine.’”
Boyle did better than that, turning the ball over only twice after halftime.
Point guard Gillis said the Rebels’ ball movement was much better.
“It was really smooth. That’s what we always try to do whenever we get going, good ball movement. I thought we did really well in the second half.”
Before the Rebels got rolling, Paintsville scored the first six points of the second half to take its largest lead at 33-22.
Boyle got off the mat with six straight points of its own, then scored another five in a run to pull within 36-35 on a runner by Sheperson with 1:49 left in the third period.
The Rebels took their first lead of the second half at 40-39 in the final minute of the third when Tarter rooted out a loose ball and tossed it to Gillis, who threw a court-length pass to Barnes for an open layup.
“I think that we just turned up our energy a little but and cut down on the turnovers,” Webb said. “I think the defensive intensity picked up for us. We still gave up some easy shots, but overall we were flying around a little bit better.”
In the fourth quarter, Boyle went 8 for 11 from the field and 13 for 14 from the foul line and outrebounded Paintsville 8-4. The Rebels also held the Tigers’ leading scorer, Colby Fugate, to two points after he had posted 14 through three quarters.
Paintsville led 45-42 early in the fourth when Boyle reeled off nine straight points to take control of the game. Sheperson’s layup off a pass from Gillis put the Rebels up 46-45, and the run ended with Boyle on top 51-45 with 4:27 to play.
Paintsville got back to within 56-52 with 2:44 to play, but Boyle scored eight straight points — including six by Gillis — to put the game away.
Seconds later, Sheperson’s slam — which cost him a technical foul for hanging on the rim — sent the Boyle bench and cheering section into a frenzy.
“We got hyped, and I loved it. It was one for the books,” Sheperson said. “But I’m not too worried about the dunk right now. Our motto’s been, ‘One More,’ and that’s what we want.’”
KHSAA Boys Sweet Sixteen
PAINTSVILLE (15-9) — Braxton Tharp 3-6 4-5 10, Colby Fugate 5-16 4-6 16, Jaxon Watts 0-3 3-4 3, Baron Ratliff 4-7 0-0 9, Ryan Gibson 1-2 0-0 2, Rex Castle 0-0 0-0 0, Connor Fugate 6-8 2-2 16. Totals 19-42 13-17 56.
BOYLE COUNTY (22-4) — Luke Sheperson 12-15 1-2 25, Luke Imfeld 5-14 5-6 17, Hagan Webb 2-5 2-2 6, Owen Barnes 1-4 0-2 2, Jagger Gillis 5-10 8-8 19, Jacob Prewitt 0-0 0-0 0, William Carr 0-1 0-0 0, Dalton Stone 0-0 0-0 0, Cruise Wilson 0-1 0-0 0, Gabe Hodge 0-0 0-0 0, Jakei Tarter 0-0 1-2 1. Totals 25-50 17-22 70.
Paintsville 19 27 41 56
Boyle County 14 22 40 70
3-Point Goals—Paintsville 5-21 (Tharp 0-3, Col. Fugate 2-9, Watts 0-2, Ratliff 1-3, Con. Fugate 2-4), Boyle County 3-14 (Imfeld 2-8, Webb 0-1, Barnes 0-1, Gillis 1-3, Carr 0-1). Fouled Out—Col. Fugate. Rebounds—Paintsville 19 (Gibson, Con. Fugate 5), Boyle County 35 (Sheperson 8). Assists—Paintsville 12 (Watts 6), Boyle County 15 (Barnes 5). Total Fouls—Paintsville 15, Boyle County 16. Technical—Sheperson. A—3,717.