Players, storylines to watch & predictions from the Sweet 16
For the past few years, Corbin basketball has been synonymous with Andrew Taylor.
Now a senior and in the final week of his high school career, Taylor has been a part of the Redhounds’ program since he was in eighth grade, and he’s averaged more than 20 points per game in each of his last four seasons.
In a 50-40 victory over Estill County to tip off this year’s Sweet Sixteen in Rupp Arena on Wednesday afternoon, however, the Hounds showed there’s much more to their team.
Taylor, who has signed with Furman, scored 15 points, dished out seven assists and made some big plays down the stretch, but he had plenty of help in getting Corbin to the state quarterfinals.
Junior guard Chase Sanders scored the first five points of Wednesday’s game, finishing with 10 points — all in the first half — a game-high 11 rebounds and four assists.
It was senior guard Chandler Stewart’s turn after halftime. He scored nine points in the third quarter, when Corbin finally took the lead for good, and finished with a game-high 16.
“That obviously takes a lot of the pressure off me,” said Taylor, the third-highest scorer in the state’s history. “We can spread the floor, attack guys when we need to. Spot up, kick out, whatever it is. We just have so many more options now, so it’s hard to stop that.”
Corbin’s Tony Pietrowski, coaching in his fourth Sweet Sixteen, said this group of Redhounds really started to jell heading into the postseason, and it was apparent from the start that this wouldn’t simply be The Andrew Taylor Show.
Pietrowski’s team smothered Estill County — a school that had never played in the Sweet Sixteen until Wednesday — from the beginning. That defensive pressure resulted in just five Estill County shot attempts in the first seven minutes of the game and just 13 in the first half. (Corbin got off 28 shots before halftime, one more than Estill had for the entire game).
But the Engineers stuck around. They were tied at 23-all at the half and briefly took the lead early in the third quarter, but Corbin went on an 11-2 run after that and never trailed again. Caleb Bonny led Estill with 14 points.
“We knew coming in that this would be a tough task,” Pietrowski said. “I think that a lot of people had kind of labeled Estill County as a Cinderella, an underdog if you will, but if you saw the growth they made from January into the postseason — they were a really good basketball team.”
Up next for Corbin will be a matchup Friday at noon with Scott County, the No. 1-ranked team in the state. Pietrowski, flanked by Taylor, Stewart and Sanders at the postgame podium Wednesday, is looking forward to that challenge.
“These three guys can really play basketball,” he said. “I expect you to see a really good performance out of these three guys (Friday).”