MOUNT OLIVET – The Robertson County boys’ basketball team looked like a well-oiled machine when they opened the season Tuesday.
Augusta, in their second game, did not.
The Black Devils picked up the defensive intensity and forced Panther turnovers to take the lead in the second quarter and never looked back on their way to a 78-62 win.
“Anytime you play in the first game at home – these boys have the internet, they’ve got social media, they read all the headlines, they read what everybody says about them - they know there’s high expectations. I got an email from Clark County today saying, ‘I’m hearing a lot of good things about your team.’ These kids hear this kind of stuff and they feel when they step out here on the floor they have these expectations to live up to and sometimes the shots don’t fall in the first quarter,” said Robertson County coach Patrick Kelsch. “I told them first quarter’s out of the way, settle down now and play with some intensity. I’m telling you, our quickness on defense got some steals which led to transition buckets. Once we saw the ball go through the net I think it opened up a lot more.”
Preston Philpot drilled a 3-pointer before the first quarter buzzer to put Augusta within a point of Robertson County. The sophomore added the first points of the second quarter to give the Panthers a 16-15 lead.
And then the Black Devils picked up the defense.
Robertson County was able to keep Augusta off the board again until the final 10 seconds and build a lead by using a 14-0 run with the help of a couple of steals and easy buckets from Rahkeem “Bobo” Swanston. The run was capped off by a Sebastion Dixon layup before Philpot hit another 3-pointer, making the score 29-19 at the half.
“I think it’s part of the team chemistry issue right now. As we continue to play a little bit more with each other, we’ll understand those things. I think a big difference tonight was our turnovers and we missed a lot of easy baskets around the rim,” said Augusta coach Brian Kirk.
Both teams battled in a back-and-forth third quarter, notching 16 points each to keep it a 10-point game heading into the fourth quarter.
After a Sam Appelman layup and a Mason Burden made free throw, Robertson County forward Alex Schalch drilled a 3-pointer, the highlight of a 6-0 run to give the Black Devils a 51-37 lead.
“As a coach it’s a great feeling knowing we can score in a multitude of ways,” said Kelsch. “The three wasn’t falling early, but Bobo hit one, Sebastion Dixon hit one, Alex hit one – and when you’re big guy can step up and hit a three like Alex, it stretches the defense which allows Justin Becker to post more or Ross [Becker] or Mason to post and get some easy buckets underneath.”
Augusta kept trying to battle back, driving to the basket and getting to the line for 20 free throws to help them score 27 points in the frame, but Robertson County was able to break through the Panthers’ press to get some fast buckets, recording 33 points to cap off the 78-62 win.
“We just talked to the kids in the locker room that everything we did tonight wasn’t negative. There’s a lot of good things that we saw throughout the course of the night that we can take and build upon,” said Kirk. “We’ve got to be able to take what we did tonight, put it in practice tomorrow and get those things corrected and eliminate some of those silly turnovers and silly things around the rim that we can get corrected. I feel like as long as we do that we can compete.”
The Panthers were led by Philpot’s 18 points, while Cody Ripato had 15, Appelman had 13 and Stephen Cordle had 11. The Panthers, who beat Dayton on Monday, fall to 1-1 on the season. They’ll return to action on Friday when they host Nicholas County in a homecoming game. The game is scheduled to tip off at 7:30 p.m.
Robertson County was led by Schalch with 18 points, followed by Burden with 16, Swanston with 13 and Dixon with 11. The Black Devils travel to Fleming County on Friday for a 7:30 p.m. game.