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MOUNT STERLING - For 32 minutes the Paintsville Tigers were on fire.
Their lethal sharpshooting from long range and the free throw stripe led them past Anderson County in the 17th annual Kentucky Prep Classic at Montgomery County High School Saturday. Shooting 6-for-15 from 3-point land in the first half, Paintsville a top 20 team in the state, also was very feisty on the defensive end where they forced 17 Bearcat turnovers. Paintsville picked up the win with a final score of 79-58.
"They shot so well. If we guarded them they went around us. They were a little quicker than us. And when they shoot like that they are hard to beat," said Anderson coach Glen Drury. "We ran them out of their man defense and they played excellent zone. They are a team that can win it all."
Anderson was led by junior C.J. Penny who put strong numbers and led both teams in scoring and rebounds with 34 and 12. However, despite Penny's play Anderson just couldn't find the rim to be so giving.
"Some games you just don't shoot well. But the key is to recover from it," said Drury.
Things seemed to be going well for the Bearcats as they jumped out in front 8-2 but a 13 point run by Paintsville sent the Bearcats to the sidelines for a quick time out by Drury at the 3:15 mark. Anderson never led again.
At halftime, Drury and his cats went into the locker room down 40-26. At the break in action Paintsville had already hit 8-of-9 free throws and 13-of-26 of field goals. Anderson was 1-of-9 from three pointers and 3-of-7 from the line.
Paintsville received majority of its outstanding play from all five of its senior starters. Each scored in double digits with guard Landon Slone leading the Tigers with 21. The 6-foot-3 Slone is already one of Paintsville's all-time leading scorers and touted as the 15th Region's top player. Other notable scorers for the Tigers were Justin Murray with 20 and Blake Bundy with 14. Murray is a transfer from Johnson Central.
Things didn't get better for the Bearcats. Early in the fourth Paintsville jumped out to its biggest lead 73-42.
When the final buzzer sounded Anderson had fallen to 10-4 on the season. But despite the difference in score, Anderson never gave up.
The fourth period saw Anderson working the ball around the perimeter and finding the open spots in Paintsville's zone.
"I was proud of the kids. We kept trying and never gave up. We dissected the zone better, which was one of the better ones we had faced all season," Drury said.
Drury knew the Tigers would be a tough opponent coming into the game and it would be difficult to pick up a win with such deadly scoring threats all over the court. Drury said that they were the best team the Bearcats had faced all season and would prove to give his club vital experience.
And the Bearcats wouldn't let the loss discourage them and have determined to be known for their play in the post-season.
"The good thing is that everyone qualifies for district tournament in Kentucky," Drury said.
"We didn't lose anything but a game today. We're trying to be a great tournament team."