Commanders catch flu bug, fall at buzzer

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By Brandon Mattingly



Berea @ Washington County
50-48 Berea
When: Saturday, Dec. 15
Where: Washington County High School
Key players: WCHS - Thomas Pettus
Game highlights: The Commander basketball team fell to 2-5 with a 50-48 home loss to Berea (3-4) on Saturday, but Washington County wasn’t playing even close to 100 percent.

WC was without starting junior point guard Evan Blake Burkhead, who is out for at least the nexth month with a broken hand, while starting junior center Jared Young and senior guard Markuise Stateman were out with flu-like symptoms. Go-to options on the offensive end of the floor, junior Thomas Pettus and senior Alex Marshall, were also suffering the affects of the illness, but were able to give it a go, posting 13 and seven points respectively in the loss.

“We’ve been fighting this flu bug for about four or five days now and it’s just kind of been going through the whole team,” said WC Head Coach Russell Burkhead.

Washington County looked like a team battling through health issues early on against the Pirates, falling behind 17-7 after the first quarter.

WC trimmed four points off the lead   heading into halftime at 23-17, and
closed the gap to 37-33 after three quarters, but they just couldn’t get over the hump to pull out a gritty win.

Trailing by one with 20 seconds to play, the Commanders sent a Berea player to the line, where he hit one of two free throws. With no timeouts, WC was forced to make a play in the final seconds on the fly, and a Marshall three-point attempt at the buzzer was no good.

Bethlehem @ Washington County
66-38 Bethlehem
When: Friday, Dec. 14
Where: Washington County High School
Key players:  BHS - Jordan Cooper-Livers, Shane Beisler WCHS - Tylyn Byas, Alex Marshall
Game highlights: The Commanders fell to 2-2 in district play with a 66-38 loss at home to Bethlehem (6-0) on Friday, as the Eagles set the tone of the game early on.

Bethlehem claimed a 19-8 lead in the first quarter thanks in large part to a pair of three-pointers by junior Shane Beisler and they never looked back from there.

“They shot the lights out,” Burkhead said of the Eagles. “Bethlehem’s got a nice team and they’re going to be a tough out in this region. They play seven seniors and it makes a difference when you’ve got that senior leadership.”

The Eagles pulled away from the Commanders in the second quarter, as Bethlehem senior Jordan Cooper-Livers got the offense going with a four-point play early in the quarter. Marshall and junior Tylyn Byas tried to keep the Commanders in the game, scoring all 11 of their team’s points in the second quarter, but it wasn’t nearly enough to stay within striking distance with the score at 43-19 entering halftime.

A pair of Cooper-Livers drives to the basket helped push the Eagles’ lead to a game-high 35 points midway through the third quarter. Washington County broke through for a 7-0 run late in the third, but were never able to get the lead under 20 the rest of the way.

Byas led the way for WC with 14 points and five steals, followed by Marshall’s 10 points.

Nelson County @ Washington County
67-60 Washington County
When: Tuesday, Dec. 11
Where: Washington County High School
Key players: WCHS - Thomas Pettus, Alex Marshall
Game highlights: Washington County has been no stranger to overtime contests in this early season and that was true once again last Tuesday, when the Commanders found themselves in their third overtime game in the first five matchups of the year.

After losing by three points to Taylor County in OT at home on opening night and handing Thomas Nelson a one-point overtime loss less than two weeks ago, WC improved to 2-1 in overtime games with a 67-60 win at home over district foe Nelson County. More importantly, the Commanders picked up their second district win.

“That’s huge with this fifth team in the district now, because you want to stay out of that four-five (seed) game,” Burkhead said. “It was a big, big win for these kids and I was really proud of them.”

Trailing 48-44 with just over a minute to play, Pettus came up with a loose ball and hit Marshall for a basket to cut the lead in half. After a Nelson County free throw and a pair of foul shots by Marshall, WC got a chance to take the lead following a five-second violation against the Cardinals on the inbound play. Pettus capitalized on the mistake, knocking down a three-pointer for a two-point lead with under 30 seconds to play.

Nelson County sophomore Zech Maulden hit the tying free throws after a foul was called on the Commanders to tie the game at 51 with just seconds to play and a three-point attempt by Stateman was off the mark as time expired, sending the game to overtime.

A Pettus three-pointer, a Marshall three-point play and a basket by Junior Morgan Churchill helped WC to a 62-57 lead in overtime, but Maulden kept his team alive with a three-pointer with 19 seconds to play. The Commanders kept their cool down the stretch, however, knocking down five of six free throws in the final seconds, including all four attempts by Pettus. The win was the type of battle Burkhead expected.

“I feel like every game we’re going to win this year is going to be tight and Nelson County was no exception,” he said. “I think when we go (to Nelson County) it will be the same thing. We’re pretty evenly matched.”

Pettus was the top scorer for the Commanders with 21 points, followed by Marshall’s 17 points and nine rebounds.

WC is back in action on Thursday when they take on Adair County at 7:45 p.m. in the First and Farmers National/Lindsey Wilson Classic.