Pulaski tops Lincoln in 12th Region matchup
Published 7:25 am Thursday, January 6, 2022
SOMERSET — The Lincoln County boys might well be the best team in the 12th Region by March, but they weren’t the best team on this night.
Coach Jeff Jackson said the Patriots’ level of play Tuesday night wasn’t where it needed to be as they fell to Pulaski County in a much-anticipated matchup between two of the region’s top teams.
Lincoln was pushed around by Pulaski in a 51-46 loss that Jackson said left no doubt about which team is best in the region right now.
“They’re the best team in our region. They showed that tonight,” the Lincoln coach said.
Pulaski, the last remaining undefeated boys or girls team in Kentucky, pestered Lincoln’s shooters, sliced through the heart of its defense and controlled the glass to hand the Patriots their fourth loss in six games following a 9-0 start.
Lincoln (11-4) returned to regional play after winning two of three games last week in the Ashland Invitational Tournament to finish third in one of Kentucky’s most prestigious holiday basketball events.
But the visiting Patriots couldn’t maintain that level of play against Pulaski (16-0), which was ranked No. 6 in the first Kentucky Associated Press poll of the season this week.
“You’ve got to bring it every night, and especially when you’re back home in the region and against a team as quality as they are,” Jackson said. “You’ve got to bring it, and they were the aggressor tonight.”
Pulaski led from start to finish, though Lincoln made things interesting with a run in each half.
The Maroons pulled away for good when the Patriots endured a scoring drought of 4:47 in the fourth quarter.
Lincoln pulled within 42-40 with 5:58 remaining on a 3-point basket in transition by Evan Smith, but
Pulaski scored nine straight points before the Patriots scored again on a 3 by Colton Ralston with 1:10 to play.
The Patriots were just 4 for 16 from the field in the fourth quarter and shot 27 percent overall from the field.
They struggled with shots both close to the basket and from long range, going 10 for 33 from inside the 3-point line and 7 for 30 from outside it.
Pulaski scored fewer points than it had in any previous game this season, but the Maroons got to the basket with regularity. They shot 40 percent overall from the field but made 18 of 33 attempts inside the 3-point line.
“We’re not very good defensively. We didn’t come in and play like we needed to play to have a chance to beat a team of their caliber,” Jackson said.
Rebounding was also an issue for Lincoln. The Patriots were outrebounded 37-26, and they gave up eight offensive rebounds in the first half that led to 11 Pulaski points.
Tramane Alcorn scored 15 points and Ralston added 13 to lead Lincoln, but Jaxon Smith, the Patriots’ leading scorer at 15.3 points per game, was held to four.
Lincoln defeated Pulaski twice last season — including a 52-47 win in the 12th Region Tournament semifinals — but has lost seven of the last 10 meetings between the teams.
The Patriots trailed 15-5 early in the second quarter before closing to within 22-20 in the final seconds of the first half.
The Maroons used a 12-1 run in the third quarter to open their largest lead at 40-26 with 1:36 remaining in the period, only to see Lincoln respond with a 14-2 run to cut the lead to two at 42-40.
Pulaski kept Lincoln at bay in the closing minutes despite poor free-throw shooting. The Maroons were 3 for 8 at the foul line in the last two minutes and 12 for 24 overall.
Cayden Lancaster and Zach Travis scored 15 points each to lead Pulaski, and Calen Sloan had 13 points and a game-high 13 rebounds.
Pulaski, Lincoln, and defending champion Boyle County are considered the top contenders for the regional title that will be decided in early March in the same gym that hosted a large crowd for Tuesday’s showdown.
Jackson said this game shows just how much work the Patriots have to do between now and then.
“We’ve played well at times, and we’ve guarded well at times, and we’ve done some good things at times,” he said, “but we’ve got a lot of work to do between now and February.”
Lincoln County 5 20 33 46
Pulaski County 13 24 40 51
LINCOLN (11-4) — Tramane Alcorn 15, Jackson Sims 3, Jaxon Smith 4, Evan Smith 8, Colton Ralston 13, Clayton Davis 3.
PULASKI (16-0) — Carson Fraley 2, Gavin Stevens 6, Cayden Lancaster 15, Zach Travis 15, Caleb Sloan 13.