Basketball

Sweet 16 preview | Pikeville-Perry Co. Central

Pikeville Schools superintendent Jerry Green (left) and Pikeville coach Elisha Justice celebrate after Pikeville's win over Johnson Central in the 15th Region Tournament championship game on March 6.

Pikeville Schools superintendent Jerry Green (left) and Pikeville coach Elisha Justice celebrate after Pikeville’s win over Johnson Central in the 15th Region Tournament championship game on March 6.

GAME 2: PIKEVILLE VS. PERRY COUNTY CENTRAL, 1:30 P.M. WEDNESDAY

PIKEVILLE

* Coach: Elisha Justice.

* Record: 23-8.

* Nickname: Panthers.

* Location: Pikeville.

* Region: 15th.

* Enrollment: 358.

* Litkenhous Rating: 73.4

* Sweet 16 trips: 15th (11-14).

* Last trip to State: 1999 (lost to Ballard 63-43 in quarterfinals).

* What to look for: The Panthers will be at a huge size disadvantage. However, Pikeville normally plays four guards and will spread the floor and try to get some open space for Wyatt Battaile, an athletic 6-foot-4 guard. Pikeville has just two starters taller than 6 feet. Perry County Central, on the other hand, is 6-2 or taller at every starting position.

* Key player: For the Panthers, everything starts with junior guard Battaile, who averages 20.6 points and 7.4 rebounds. “He’s our leader, and he’s a guy who can get to the basket,” said Justice. “He’s getting some good looks (from NCAA Division I schools).”

* Coach-speak: “You never know what’s going to happen,” said Justice, a former Mr. Basketball selection who led Shelby Valley to the Sweet 16 title in 2010 in a win over Ballard. He later played two seasons at the University of Louisville.

MORE COVERAGE | Elisha Justice back in Sweet 16 as head coach

STARTERS

2-Wyatt Battaile

6-4, Jr., 20.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg

12-Cade Byers

6-3, Jr., 6.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg

5-Evan Rhodes

5-10, Jr., 7.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg

11-Connor Roberts

5-11, So., 10.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg

23-Kyle Watkins

5-10, So., 7.9 ppg, 1.5 rpg

KEY RESERVES

23-Christian Biliter

6-0, So., 3.4 ppg, 1.9 rpg

55-Zach Hamilton

6-5, Jr., 3.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg

14-Connor Risner

6-5, Sr., 2.6 ppg, 1.9 rpg

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PERRY COUNTY CENTRAL

* Coach: Shannon Hoskins.

Record: 27-7.

* Nickname: Commodores.

* Location: Hazard.

* Region: 14th.

* Enrollment: 909.

* Litkenhous Rating: 86.9.

* Sweet 16 trips: Seventh (1-6).

* Last trip to State: 2011 (lost to Wayne County 68-58 in first round).

* What to look for: For a high school basketball team, the Commodores have some tall timber with 6-8 Idris Akenyemi and 6-9 Princewill Anosike. Both are transfers from June Buchanan and originally from Nigeria. Since they joined the Perry Country Central team, the Commodores are 21-4. “They are athletic,” Hoskins said. “But they’re raw.”

* Key player: Despite the presence of the big guys under the basket, Perry’s top player is Damon Tobler, who averages 16.3 points and 8.7 rebounds. Tobler holds several NCAA Division I offers, including from Tennessee Tech, Winthrop and Samford. Once the two transfers joined the team, the 6-4 Tobler was moved from a post player to point guard. “He’s working on it,” Hoskins said of the new position for Tobler. “He’s certainly putting in the hours.”

*Coach-speak: PCC is trying to become the first 14th Region team to make the semifinals since Hazard did it in 1986. “It’s all everybody talks about,” Hoskins said. “Do you have the team to do it? I think we’ve got a good chance.”

STARTERS

20-Damon Tobler

6-4, Sr., 16.3 ppg, 8.7 rpg

23-Idris Akenyemi

6-8, Sr., 6.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg

24-Noah Black

6-2, So., 13.6 ppg, 1.7 rpg

32-Austin Hill

6-2, Sr., 10.9 ppg, 3.4 rpg

44-Princewill Anosike

6-9, Sr., 8.4 ppg, 8.2 rpg

KEY RESERVES

2-Chandler Caudill

6-2, Jr., 4.7 ppg, 2.2 rpg

3-Richard Cornett

6-1, Jr., 6.7 ppg, 1.6 rpg

-Kenzie Winstead