GREATEST SHOW IN HOPPS: Pikeville senior Wyatt Battaile splits John Harden defenders Mickey Pearson, left, and Alex Matthews (4) to score two of his game-high 30 points in the Panthers’ 72-69 win in triple overtime at Rupp Arena on March 14. Pikeville, now 25-9, will face Warren Central at 1:30 p.m. today in the Elite 8.
Medical Leader│Photo by TEDDY PAYNTER

Kentucky Boys’ Sweet 16 #PikevilleStrong: Panthers win epic triple-overtime thriller to reach Elite 8

Teddy Paynter

LEXINGTON — No high school basketball game in 15th Region history has ever carried the weight of Pikeville’s opening-round Sweet 16 matchup with heavily-favored John Hardin at Rupp Arena on March 14.

Just less than 24 hours following the tragic death of Pikeville City Police Officer Scotty Hamilton – the Panthers wore their emotions on their heart, shoes and jersey all the way to an epic triple-overtime shocker of the Bulldogs, 72-69.

Head coach Elijah Justice had been in big games before as a player at Shelby Valley but nothing to this magnitude.

“That was a terrible tragedy,” 2010’s Mr. Kentucky Basketball said. “It happened last night [Tuesday] and I think most of us got word of that this morning. It’s a hard thing to try and comfort anybody in a time like that but we wanted to do the best that we can and try to represent home as good as we can, and all these guys wore the blue ribbon on their shoes, just in honor of the police officer and to just show our respects.”

He added, “We’ve got a great community, too. Anybody that has social media has seen everybody come together back home and rally around that family. That was a really good thing.”

Pikeville, now 25-9, advanced to the Elite 8 for the first time since beating Boyd County in 1999. The Panthers eventually lost to champion Ballard. The Panthers face Warren Central at 1:30 p.m. today.

It took a number of meaningful plays for it to happen:

Wyatt Battaile’s three-point basket just ahead of the buzzer tied the game at 52. He finished with a game-high 30 points.

In the first overtime, Evan Rhodes was fouled on a three-point attempt out of the corner with 3.6 seconds left. He made all three to tie the game at 58. Rhodes finished with 11.

In the second overtime, Christian Billiter drained a three-point attempt near the top of the key with 11.6 seconds left to tie the game. Jordan Hardin’s final shot hit the iron.

In the third overtime, Battaile hit a jumper and Connor Roberts scored on a layoff off a steal to put the Panthers ahead for good. Roberts added 14 points and six rebounds, including four offensive.

Hidden in every second was Battaile, Roberts and Kyle Watkins playing all 44 minutes.

“There were just so many plays these guys made. They fought and never gave up,” Justice added.


At Lexington

(Sweet 16 Opening Round)


JH (28-8)…............17  8  13  14  (6) (3) ( 8) – 69

PK (25-9)...........…18  14  6  14  (6) (3) (11) – 72


John Hardin (69) – Alex Matthews 1 1-3 3; Malik Wright 8 3-6 19; Aaron Scott 3(3) 0-1 15; Mickey Pearson 2(2) 8-10 18; Jachai Walker 3 4-6 10; Darion Davis 1 0-0 2; and Trevon Harris 1 0-0 2. Totals: 19(5) 16-26 69.

Pikeville (72) – Cade Byers 2 2-2 6; Kyle Watkins 1 0-0 2; Wyatt Battaile 5(5) 5-11 30; Connor Roberts 5(1) 1-4 14; Christian Billiter 0(1) 0-0 3; Evan Rhodes 1(1) 6-7 11; and Zach Hamilton 1 0-2 2. Totals: 17(8) 14-26 72.