2018 15th Region Champions – Pikeville Panthers – State Tournament Preview
The Pikeville Panthers will be making back-to-back state tournament appearances after knocking off Johnson Central in the regional championship for the second straight season. Pikeville opened the season as the favorite to win the region and started strong, winning 14 of their first 17 games to include the All-A regional title. In the All-A championship, senior Cade Byers went down with a broken hand and the Panthers dropped five of their next ten games. The ship was rocky, but Byers would return by regional tournament time.
Shorthanded and only going six deep, Pikeville was able to win the 59th District Tournament on rival Shelby Valley’s home floor. It was the third time they defeated the Wildcats on the season. Pikeville advanced to the regional tournament where Cade Byers returned. First they knocked off Pike Central (lost early in season to Pike Central without Byers – beat Pike Central with Byers early in season as well), then defeated Paintsville and finally avenged their worst in-region loss by beating Johnson Central in the regional championship for the second straight year.
Wyatt Battaile was named tournament MVP for the second straight year and holds a D1 basketball offer to Mercer. His double-double in the regional championship game cemented his legacy in 15th Region lore and established his team as one of the best in recent years.
Quick Reference Guide
Head Coach: Elisha Justice
Head Coach Career Record: 79-38 (0.6752) (In 2nd Season with Pikeville: 4th Overall)
(32-20 while coaching June Buchanan [2015-2016] and 47-18 while coaching Pikeville [2017-present])
Colors: Maroon and White
All Time Record: 1619-1106-1 (0.5947)(Tie occurred in 1916: No overtime rule)
Regional Titles: (11) 1949, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1955, 1957, 1959, 1974, 1999, 2017, 2018
What to Expect at State Tournament:
Pikeville will play a controlled style with little to no press. They can all dribble pass and shoot from deep except Cade Byers (range to 12 feet). Battaile and Byers play well above the rim and are excellent defenders with their ability to contest shots. Evan Rhodes and Christian Billiter will play solid defense and are opportunistic scorers when unaccounted for. They generally sub for one another and get the toughest defensive assignment night in and night out. Conner Roberts has the ability to get hot quick, hitting multiple 3FG’s in a row. He is an extremely talented scorer who can fill it up on a given night. Kyle Watkins will run the show and should be full strength after battling the flu during the regional tournament. He will penetrate to score, but has the ability to find open shooters everywhere.
Pikeville likes to be deliberate on offense, but have the player that can get 40 if needed. If they have the lead late, they will run offense until you foul them. In short, they don’t beat themselves. With experience from last season this team could shock the state by knocking off John Hardin. Although they are not deep, they have the athleticism in Battaile and Byers to guard Pearson and ball handling to break any press (can put 5 guards on the floor with Battaile playing the 5).
Players to Watch:
1. Wyatt Battaile (Senior) SF 6’3’’ – The only player in the 15th Region with a current D1 offer, Wyatt Battaile can do it all. He can dribble, play way above the rim, shoot from deep, and has a deadly step back mid-range jumper that is un-guardable. This season Wyatt took home 15th Region KABC POY Honors and is considered a Mr. Basketball finalist. He averaged 24.3 ppg and 8.8 rpg during the season.
2. Conner Roberts (Junior) SG 5’10’’ – Roberts is the second best scorer on the team behind Battaile. He makes excellent decisions with the ball and is deadly from deep as a floor spacer on drives into the paint. Averaging 14.1 ppg and 3.5 rpg, Roberts is a player you better account for or he will kill you.
3. Cade Byers (Senior) PF 6’4’’ – Byers is the lynchpin of the team. He can score 20 in the paint if needed or score 0 and set screens all day. Either is fine with him. He plays above the rim, is the best help and weak side defender on the team, and blocks shots a foot above the rim. Byers was out for most of Pikeville’s losses during the season, but when healthy and in the lineup no team in the 15th defeated the Panthers. When he is on the floor, this team is better and there might be a different reason why every night. Byers averaged 5.8 ppg and 6.1 rpg during the season.