Bulldogs barely hang on
Carmi-White County edges West Frankfort, advances to semifinals
CARMI - If you were to use analytic thinking in a horse racing sense in describing the first round game of the 2A Carmi-White County Regional on Monday night it might be worded like this in the Daily Racing Form of past performances.

On the comment line for the host Carmi-White County Bulldogs it would say “Early Speed, Lugged In, Held On.”

The comments for the West Frankfort Redbirds would be “Broke Bad, Late Rally, Just Missed.”

The host Bulldogs did just about everything right in sprinting out to a commanding 32-14 halftime lead as the visitors couldn't get out of the gate.

However the Redbirds rallied down the stretch and nearly got to the wire for a dead-heat (overtime).

When the final horn went off, the hosts escaped a monumental collapse to advance to the semifinals of their own regional with a 47-44 win.

Coach Kevin Wolf and his troops won every phase of the first 16 minutes but the last 16 were anything but pretty.

Coach Pete Gordon and his Redbirds looked lost and beaten in the first two quarters.

West Frankfort needed a GPS as they couldn't locate any of the CWC outside shooters on the court.

The Bulldogs nailed down 11 3-pointers in the game with nine of them coming in the opening half.

Six-foot-three junior guard Devin Rankin hit five of the 3's in the contest and ended up with 18 points for CWC.

Teammate Kacee Fulkerson, also a 6-foot-3 junior, added 11.

Five-foot-ten junior guard Ty Barbre pitched in nine points, including 3-of-5 free throws in the fourth quarter as the Bulldogs held on for dear life in the pressure packed ending.

Peyton Edwards, a 6-foot-6 junior forward, added six points in spite of foul problems as he spent a lot of time on the pine.

They did all of this without the services of their leading scorer.

Senior guard Ethan Mahon missed the game with the flu but his teammates stepped up in his absence.

“It is a big win. That was basically the team you will see next year with Ethan gone tonight the kids stepped up. I think they (the kids) were excited to play. It was kind of a glimpse into the future and it sparked their interests a little bit. We played free with nothing to lose,” said Coach Wolff.

The Redbirds also played shorthanded as junior guard Isaiah Thompson was also missing from the lineup.

West Frankfort closed out their season at 8-21 with yet another narrow loss.

Of the 21 losses, 12 of them were single-digit defeats.

Six-foot-three senior forward Ethan Culley scored 20 points for the Redbirds and Josh Melvin, also a 6-foot-3 senior, closed out his prep career with 10.

Seniors Andrew Cunningham (6) and Quincy King (4) added points as did junior guard Paxton Griffith (4) in the season ending defeat.

The hosts answered the bell and got out of the gate early while West Frankfort, after a brief early gallop, fell behind.

The Bulldogs cashed in four long range 3-pointers in the first quarter.

Fulkerson nailed down two of them in the frame, including the first one for the team.

Rankin and Fulkerson, on back-to-back possessions, hit shots from the left corner.

When Barbre nailed down his first triple from the top of the key on an assist from Rankin, the Bulldogs were up 12-6 at the first horn.

Coach Gordon's crew were in trouble as nothing was going right.

After connecting on two early shots, the Redbirds ended the opening stanza 2-of-13 from the field and committed three turnovers.

Things got even worse for WF in the second quarter.

CWC scored the first eight points in the frame with Edwards scoring in the lane and two more 3-point darts finding the bullseye, one each from Fulkerson and Rankin.

The 20-6 lead forced a timeout by Coach Gordon as his team was close to being blown out.

The Redbirds responded with a couple of scores by Culley and Melvin and a few minutes later a basket by Cunningham on a back door cut.

But these Bulldogs weren't done with their first half offensive onslaught.

A 12-0 run by Coach Wolff's club closed the second quarter.

A trip to the foul line produced a 1-of-2 effort from Rankin to start the scoring.

An inside basket by Edwards was followed by three consecutive 3-pointers.

Two of them came by Rankin, with one coming a nice assist from Barbre.

Then Barbre finished the crusade with a trey from the right wing as CWC sprinted off to the locker room up 32-14 at intermission.

Whatever was said by Coach Gordon at halftime fired up his senior led club as West Frankfort turned the tables on CWC.

“Anytime you dig a hole like that it is never good. We said at halftime 'Guys, don't give up. Keep plugging away and we'll get back in this',” said Coach Gordon.

In the first minute of the third quarter, Edwards picked up his second foul as he sent King to the foul line with 6:16 left.

King made the free throws and on the ensuing possession by Carmi-White County, Edwards was whistled for a charging foul, his third personal as he went to the bench with 6:06 left.

“We shot the ball really well in the first half, we didn't shoot the ball well in the second half but we did enough things in the second half to finish off the game,” said Coach Wolff. “We fought through some foul trouble tonight and we have to do a better in the second half when we have leads.”

Rankin nailed down another 3-point bomb to quiet things for a moment but WF responded.

Nine consecutive points by the Redbirds got their confidence going.

Stepping up the pressure, West Frankfort forced CWC into seven third quarter turnovers and just 2-of-8 shooting.

After two Melvin free throws and a drive by King, Cunningham made a steal and took it the distance for a slam dunk as the momentum had shifted to the visitors.

Culley connected from long range for a 3-pointer and both Griffith and Culley scored on shots to close the quarter with the Redbirds down just 40-29.

Things were about to get even tighter as West Frankfort made another run to begin the fourth quarter.

A 9-2 blitz to start the final frame got Coach Gordon's club into contention.

Cunningham made a nice baseline drive for a reverse lay in which was followed by consecutive buckets by Culley.

One of the scores was another 3-pointer for Culley and Melvin scored in the paint while being fouled by Edwards, which was his fourth personal foul with 4:59 left.

Although Melvin missed the free throw, WF was down just 42-38.

Fulkerson stopped the Redbirds' run with a basket before Culley hit yet another 3-point shot, this time from the left wing.

CWC left the door open for West Frankfort to tie the game.

After Barbre hit two free throws, he missed his next chance in a 1-and-Bonus situation as did reserve freshman Bryce Conner.

Culley hit his third trifecta of the quarter on an inbounds play as West Frankfort trailed just 46-44 with :17 remaining.

After a quick foul sent Barbre back to the line for a double-bonus, Barbre missed the first shot and made the second one.

The Redbirds had a final chance down just three points.

A timeout by Coach Gordon set up the final play with :08.9 left.

West Frankfort got the shot they wanted as Culley was open on the left wing.

His 3-point attempt was off the rim but King managed to snag the offensive rebound.

Subsequently the ball got back out to Culley who launched what would be the tying 3-pointer.

But this attempt, like the first one, bounced harmlessly off of the rim as the final horn sounded.

After a miserable first half shooting (5-of-28) the Redbirds made a game of it.

Coach Gordon saw his club respond in the second half with a better performance.

Overall it still wasn't good enough as they finished 17-of-55.

West Frankfort held a 29-24 rebounding edge and committed 11 turnovers compared to 13 by the hosts.

“It is sad because anytime you are a senior laden team and they played their last game tonight it is going to be sad and there were a lot of tears. I told the guys that I couldn't be more proud of them and their effort,” said Coach Gordon. “Me being their third coach in three years, it has been tough but they have handled that adversity and gave me a great effort all season. But at the end of the day you have to give them (CWC) credit. They knocked down some shots and we just couldn't quite make enough plays.”

Coach Wolff saw his team cool a bit in the second half after a big start.

The Bulldogs ended up 15-of-36 overall and 11-of-23 from the arc.

While the season, and careers of many seniors, comes to a close for West Frankfort the host Bulldogs (16-15) get a fourth game with Fairfield, the number two ranked team in the sub-sectional and top seed in this regional.

Two conference games and a contest played at the CWCIT back in January were all wins by the Mules.

Most recently, Fairfield spanked the Bulldogs 66-28 last Friday at the Mule Barn.

“We know who they are. They (Fairfield) beat us twice by a lot but we played them close here (67-58 on January 17). We know they have all the pressure on them and we are playing with house money so to speak. We just want to go out there and play the right way and see what happens,” said Coach Wolff.

2A Carmi-White County Regional
Carmi-White County
West Frankfort

Carmi-White County (47) – Barbre 0 2 3-5 9, Rankin 0 5 3-4 18, Stubblefield 0 0 0-0 0, Edwards 3 0 0-0 6, Fulkerson 1 3 0-0 11, Caooner 0 1 0-1 3, Attebury 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-4, 3FG-11, FT-6-10, PF-9.
West Frankfort (44)
– King 1 0 2-2 4, Griffith 1 0 2-2 4, Culley 4 4 0-0 20, Melvin 4 0 2-3 10, Cunningham 3 0 0-0 6, Clark 0 0 0-0 0.
2FG-13, 3FG-4, FT-6-7, PF-11.
Fouled Out – None.

Technical Fouls
– None.