One of the most eagerly anticipated games on the Cougar schedule this year took place last Tuesday evening in Cougar Gym as former Grayson County star Chris Gaither returned home as the head coach of the Martha Layne Collins Titans.
As a junior point guard, Gaither led the Cougars to the Sweet 16 following the 2001 season, outplaying Muhlenberg North’s Patrick Sparks in an incredible 3rd Region final at Breckinridge County. In his senior year, Gaither was named the 3rd Region Player of the Year by the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer.
Before the start of the season last year, Gaither took over the reins at Collins, becoming the youngest head coach in the state in the process. Gaither took his team to the regional finals before being defeated by Oldham County.
This year, Gaither leads a team that came into the Grayson County game with a record of 13-6 and figures to be a favorite to take the 8th Region title. Against the Cougars, they displayed a lock-down defense and the ability to fill it up from the outside as they defeated the Cougars easily, 62-43.
Grayson County played with the Titans through the first quarter, but an 11-0 Titan run at the end of the first and the start of the second put them in command.
Collins’ nifty guard Buddy Johnson hit three three-pointers in the first quarter, but the Cougars answered back with a pair of their own, one from sophomore Lane Rackley and the other from sophomore Talon Gary, and the Cougars led 13-11 with 1:23 left in the opening period.
Rackley was starting at center in place of the injured Ethan Saltsman and responded with probably his best game as a varsity player, finishing with a team-high 17 points and four rebounds.
The Titans scored the final six points of the period, then opened the second quarter with five more to take a nine-point advantage, 22-13 at the 7:06 mark.
Senior Braxton Williams hit a running jumper at the 2:24 mark that brought the Cougars to within five, 25-20, but the Titans scored the final four points of the first half and led by nine again, 29-20 at the break.
Rance Whobrey’s three-pointer at the 4:26 mark of the third quarter made it an eight-point game, 38-30, but the Titans put the game away by closing out the period with eight straight to open up a 16-point lead, 46-30 heading into the final period of play.
A three-point play by Rackley with 6:22 left to play cut the Titan lead to 12 points, 46-34, but back-to-back threes from Johnson and Lawson Page pushed the lead back up to 18 points. Grayson County was never closer the rest of the way.
Johnson led all scorers with 24 points, including six shots from behind the arc. Dwayne Marshall joined Johnson in double figures with 11 points.
Gary and Whobrey both finished with seven points for the Cougars, while Williams had five. Logan Ramsey had three points, while Cole Akridge and Lane Decker had two apiece to complete the Cougar scoring.