March 4, 2013 — For the first time in three seasons, there will be a new team representing the 16th Region at Rupp Arena.
The Rowan County Vikings lost to Fleming County 60-45 Friday night at Ellis T. Johnson Arena at Morehead State University.
On a night where it seemed like Rowan County could finally solve the Fleming County equation, the Panthers made it five straight victories this season over its rival from the 61st District.
“No regrets here,” Coach Shawn Thacker said. “I’m proud of my kids and what they accomplished. We wanted to make it to the semifinals this year and have a chance and that’s what we did this year. We fell short where we were the least favorite of the bunch of the teams that could have won it. We gave it our best shot and came up short. We have nothing to be ashamed of.”
The Vikings looked to run away with the contest, leading 15-7 at the end of the first quarter. Rowan came out with more energy, making baskets, grabbing rebounds and playing solid defense.
The lead ballooned to 23-12 in the second quarter on a Matt Brown jumper but Fleming did not go away quietly, cutting the lead to seven at 24-17 with 2:15 left in the first half.
Momentum quickly shifted toward the Panthers late in the first half when junior Tyler Thacker planted his leg awkwardly on a drive to the basket and injured his knee. He was on the floor for several minutes before being helped back to the locker room. He did not return.
“I thought it was the best basketball he’s played all year,” Shawn Thacker said. “It was the best thing for our team and he had some growing pains along the year … it was just a tough loss for us.”
From that point, Fleming turned the game completely around, trailing by just one 24-23 at halftime.
Rowan County came out in the third quarter making two baskets, a jumper by Justin Graham and three-point basket by Jalen Stone to give Rowan a 29-25 lead. Fleming would then go on a 14-3 run in the final 4:37 of the quarter to pull ahead 39-32.
The run bled over in the fourth after Fleming scored nine consecutive points at 48-32. The Vikings cut the lead to 12 midway through the final stanza, but could not get any closer.
“They kind of smelled blood in the water,” Thacker said. “They probably had an idea what was going on. At times we settled down and handled the press but we couldn’t find the basket.”
The Vikings were led in scoring by Callahan’s 13 points off the bench. Stone had 10 points, Matt Brown had seven, Tyler Thacker score six, Josh Barnard contributed with five points. Justin Graham and Issac Lee had two points to round out the scoring for Rowan.
With the loss, Rowan County finishes the season at 20-14 and says goodbye to its five seniors.
“To carry the torch they had to carry, with all the losses that we’ve had the past couple of years and if this is so to speak a down year, I’ll take it,” Thacker said. “I’m proud of my kids.”
The Panthers (28-6) will face 5th Region Champion John Hardin Thursday at 1:30 p.m. at Rupp Arena in Lexington.
MacKenzie Bates can be reached at email@example.com or by telephone at 784-4116.