High School Basketball

100th boys’ Sweet Sixteen preview: Elliott County vs. Collins

Elliott County and Collins are the opening matchup of Thursday’s night session in Rupp Arena.
Elliott County and Collins are the opening matchup of Thursday’s night session in Rupp Arena.

Elliott County

Region: 16th

Record: 26-3

Enrollment: 332

Coach’s résumé

Greg Adkins is 148-81 in eight years at Elliott County. He was an assistant coach for the Lions in each of their Sweet Sixteen appearances from 2007-09.

Starters

1) Korbin Spencer, 6-1, So., 22.3 ppg

3) Chase Porter, 6-2, Sr., 15.5 ppg

4) Gage Evans, 6-0, So., 9.0 ppg

20) Tanner Dickerson, 6-0, So., 14.3 ppg

31) Austin Porter, 5-9, Sr., 4.8 ppg

How they got here

Elliott County lost just twice to in-state teams during the regular season: Paris in the All “A” tournament on Jan. 26 and West Carter — a team the Lions beat four times this season — four days after that. Still, the defending 16th Region champs had to earn their third straight trip to Rupp Arena. Elliott County needed overtime in both the region semifinal victory over Boyd County and the region final win over West Carter. “It seemed like the whole postseason, our guys just willed themselves to win,” Adkins said. “They found themselves down on the scoreboard late in games. But they never wavered. They’re a strong-minded group of kids.” The Lions coach also lauded this team’s unselfishness. Elliott County is averaging 17 assists per game this season.

Another three-peat

It took more than 30 years for Elliott County to reach its first Sweet Sixteen, doing so in 2007. That started a run of three consecutive trips to the state tournament, ending with a loss in the state semifinals in 2009. The Lions are back at Rupp for Year 3 of another three-peat. Bowling Green has ousted Elliott County from the Sweet Sixteen in the first round each of the past two seasons.

Player to watch

Korbin Spencer is only a sophomore, but he’s already a Sweet Sixteen veteran. This will be the third state tournament appearance for Spencer, who was the Lions’ sparkplug off the bench as an eighth-grader two years ago and emerged as the team’s leading scorer as a freshman last season. The 6-1 guard is averaging 22.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and five assists per game this season, while upping his three-point shooting by nearly 10 percentage points from last year. He’s shooting 41 percent from deep, adding another aspect to his versatile offensive game. “That makes him even more of a difficult matchup,” Adkins said.

Sweet history

This is Elliott County’s sixth state tournament and third in a row. The Lions advanced to the final four in 2009.

Collins

Region: 8th

Record: 23-12

Enrollment: 1,085

Coach’s résumé

Chris Gaither is 134-62 in six years at Collins. He played at Georgetown College and was a member of Grayson County’s Sweet Sixteen team in 2001.

Starters

1) Jacob Feltner, 5-11, Jr., 10.5 ppg

12) Nick Fort, 6-4, Jr., 9.8 ppg

20) Dayvion McKnight, 6-0, Fr., 7.5 ppg

24) Charlie Cochran, 6-5, Sr., 15.5 ppg

35) Dominique Turner, 6-5, Sr., 11.3 ppg

How they got here

The Titans were the only team to beat Adair County in the regular season and had some other good wins throughout the year, but their 2016-17 campaign wasn’t easy. Collins started the season 15-3 before losing three starters — Jacob Feltner, Nick Fort and Dominique Turner — to injury and illness in January, struggled after that and struggled some more once those players returned to the lineup. The Titans took a four-game losing streak into the postseason, lost to Anderson County in the district title game, and then won their three region games — including a victory over the Bearcats — by a total of eight points. “We knew what they were capable of,” Gaither said. “And we were just hoping we could find that rhythm going into the regional tournament. … I definitely think our kids finally found it at the right time. Now that we’re closer to the rhythm that we had, I think we can go to the state tournament and have a good showing there.”

Beyond his years

Collins starts two seniors, two juniors and … freshman point guard Dayvion McKnight. “He’s probably the most mature player I’ve ever coached,” said Gaither, who added that McKnight was close to triple doubles throughout the season and had a total of 13 assists in the final two games of the Titans’ region tournament. “He was probably the MVP of that tournament.”

Player to watch

Charlie Cochran leads the team with 15.5 points and 7.0 rebounds per game, and he’s shooting 63.5 percent from the floor — a big number for a kid who often attempts mid-range jumpers and three-point shots. “He’s such a highly efficient player,” Gaither said. “He takes the right shots at the right times.” When the Titans lost three starters for that stretch in January, “Charlie definitely became that player we had to go through,” the coach said.

Sweet history

The Titans are in the state tournament for the second time, also advancing to Rupp in 2015. The school was founded in 2010.

 
Chris Ware | staff

Elliott County vs. Collins

What: First round of boys’ Sweet Sixteen basketball state tournament

Where: Rupp Arena

When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday

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