CORBIN — Clay County, led by tournament MVP Trey Farmer, repeated as 13th Region champion by beating Corbin 68-54 Monday night in the Corbin Arena.
It was reminiscent of the good ol' days when Bobby Keith's Tigers were a fixture in the Sweet Sixteen, an era highlighted by a Clay County state title in 1987 when Richie Farmer was its star.
"Clay County has a lot of tradition in the mountains, and it's really nice to get it back to kind of the way it used to be," Coach Robert Marcum said. "I'm pleased for the program and for Coach Keith. He wanted this more than anybody."
Trey Farmer, Richie's son, led the way. The 6-foot-3 sophomore had 20 points and five rebounds.
Blake Smith, a 6-2 sophomore, had 18 points. Junior point guard Chip McDaniel had 14 points, including 12-for-12 foul shooting.
Jake Allen, a 6-8 senior, provided a low-post presence with nine points and seven rebounds.
Victory did not come easy.
Corbin, which went scoreless for almost nine minutes (midway through the second quarter to midway through the third), finally found its shooting eye.
The Redhounds got on a roll and almost tracked down Clay County, cutting the deficit to 53-51 with three minutes left in the game.
But that's where the comeback ended.
Clay County went on a 13-0 run, including eight free throws by McDaniel, to earn a return trip to Rupp Arena.
Clay County will face 9th Region champ Covington Catholic on March 20 in the first round of the Sweet Sixteen.
Trey Farmer said he will get to fulfill a lifelong dream by playing in Rupp Arena.
"It's a great feeling, something I've always wanted to do," he said. "I've been to every Sweet Sixteen since I was little, but I have no clue what it's going to feel like to finally play there."
Farmer came up big for the Tigers against Corbin. He had 11 points to help them lead 22-18 at halftime, and he hit a buzzer-beating three at the end of the third quarter to give them a 41-31 cushion. When Corbin pulled to within 53-51, Farmer hit two free throws to start the victory-clinching 13-0 run.
"He's got it in his genes," Marcum said. "He's just a heck of a basketball player."
Corbin wasn't supposed to get this far. Coach Tony Pietrowski said most people counted out his Redhounds when they lost five straight games during the season.
But they battled back and won their sixth district title in a row, then knocked off Jackson County and Bell County to get to the region finals.
"We had two very emotional, very physical games to get here," Pietrowski said.
Kenny Hopper, a junior, led Corbin with 19 points. Zach Maguet had eight points. Kevin Goins and Trevor Browning had seven each.
"I'm as proud of this team as any I've ever coached," Pietrowski said. "They kept fighting and fighting, and just epitomized what I think Corbin is about."
McDaniel, who led Clay County to the region title last year, said he knew Corbin would be difficult to beat.
"They play so hard and their press is tough," he said. "They got us playing a little too fast, but we slowed down and took care of business.
"It's pretty awesome being back-to-back region champs. I'm still a little in shock right now."
Clay Co. 68, Corbin 54
CORBIN (22-11) — Hopper 19, Maguet 8, Waddle 3, Shelton 2, Goins 7, Taylor 5, Browning 7, Hopkins 3.
CLAY COUNTY (23-8) — Wolfe 4, Farmer 20, McDaniel 14, Allen 9, Smith 18, House 3.
Corbin 10 8 13 25—54
Clay County 11 11 19 27—68
Mike Fields: (859) 231-3337. Twitter: @MikeFieldsNotes. Blog: fieldsnotes.bloginky.com.