The Henry County Wildcats hosted the Anderson County Bearcats on Feb. 5 and fell 70-54 to the 8th Region power.
The Wildcats opened with a Chase Howard layup and an Austin Young basket in the post. Both teams played strong defense and patient offense in the opening period and found it difficult to finish. The Wildcats won the first period, 10-9, with points from five different players during the period.
The second period belonged to the Bearcats who opened with a 9-1 run. Robbie Cruse broke the run with a layup. But the Bearcats extended the lead to 10 points with a 5-0 run before the Wildcats closed to 7 on a Derek Jeffries inside move and a Cruse free throw.
Then Bearcats had another big run to close the half at 31-18.
The two big runs in the period were fatal for the Cats, as they played evenly with the Bearcats in the second half but couldn’t close the gap.
While the Cats found their offensive touch, the Bearcats found their long range touch in the second half.
Anderson’s Austin Cummins hit three 3-pointers to keep the Cats at bay. In the third period, both teams scored 17 points.
In the fourth, Cummins continued to drain bombs, hitting three more from behind the arc. His hot hand spread to teammate Christian Estes who hit four 3-pointers in the period.
The Bearcats were so hot from 3-point range that they didn’t get an inside basket. They added one free throw to the long-range bombs for a total of 22 points in the quarter.
The Wildcats meanwhile managed 19 points as Dakota Estes scored 9 points to lead the comeback attempt, but could not keep up with the Anderson 3-point onslaught. The Bearcats hit 10 3-pointers in the second half and 12 for the game.
Young and Estes led the Wildcats with 13 points apiece.
“They are 17-2 for a reason,” Henry coach Enoch Welch said. “They are fundamentally sound. They don’t have a weakness you can exploit. They are solid all through the lineup.
“I thought we did a nice job (early) of isolating in the post which is why we had the lead. As the game progressed and they began to knock down shots, we kind of panicked and got out of what we needed to do. We started taking quick shots and the pace of the game got away from us.”
Welch was impressed with Cruse’s play. “I thought Robbie Cruse came in and did a nice job,” he said. “He came out of his shell and played really aggressive which is what we need him to do.”
Spencer County 78
Despite a furious, late rally, the Cats fell by 5 points to visiting Spencer County.
Spencer opened with a 5-0 lead before Landon New hit two free throws. After the teams traded baskets Spencer County hit their second 3-pointer of the opening minutes to go up 10-4.
The teams traded buckets again to make it 13-6.
With 4:21 left, Welch called timeout to adjust the defense. The Cats came out and managed to cut the lead to five by the end of the period at 17-12.
The Cats got their offense going in the second period but struggled to stop the Bears as the teams traded buckets for most of the period.
The Cats’ big men, Jeffries and Young, both got into foul trouble with two each. Cruse and James Wundrak came off the bench to help the Cats with 6 and 2 points respectively and some much needed inside defense and rebounding.
The Bears stretched the lead by two more points, going into halftime ahead 36-29.
The Bears, who had five 3-pointers in the first half switched inside in the third period and added to their lead with a 13-6 run to open the half.
The Wildcats righted the ship and whittled 1 point off the margin going into the last quarter. Estes had seven points in the period to help keep the Cats close.
The Cats opened the quarter with a 7-2 run to close the gap to 7. Young punctuated the run with a steal and layup on which he was fouled; he converted the free throw to complete a 3-point play.
The Bears pulled back to an 11-point lead before the Cats had a 6-1 run to cut the lead back to 6 points. The final play of the run came on a West steal and layup attempt that was blocked, only to be cleaned up by a hustling Jeffries who got he rebound and put back. The Cats immediately called timeout to set up their full-court press with 4:44 left.
But the Bears again answered the run by stretching the lead back out to ten at 71-61.
The Cats cut it back to 7 on another Jeffries put back with 2:50 left but were called for a technical foul for touching the ball after it went through the net — the second time in the game that it happened.
Spencer County hit one of the technicals and scored on a layup to stretch it back to 10. The Cats scratched and clawed their way back but ran out of time as the buzzer ended their final 9-2 run and left the Bears with a 5-point victory.
After the game Welch said that he felt that Spencer County controlled the way the game was played. “They came in and dictated pace and tempo which is not what we wanted, “ he said. “We had to play from behind. We simply played their game for three quarters before playing the fourth quarter the way we wanted to play. Also, when you are trying to make a comeback, 15-of-24 from the line just won’t cut it.”
Bullitt Central 41
The Wildcats were able to pick up a game with the Bullitt Central Cougars on Saturday. The decision to pick up the game was a good one as the Cats played one of their most complete games of the season in pummeling the Cougars by 28 points.
The Wildcats started slow, scoring 11 points in the first quarter, but played solid defense holding the Cougars to 11 points, and going into the second period tied.
Both teams began to heat up in the 2nd period.
With the score tied at 25, the Cats went on a decisive 9-0 run to close the half and led 34-25 going into halftime.
The Wildcats defensive intensity increased in the second half and they held the Cougars to 5 points, while scoring 20 themselves.
The Wildcats played well in the fourth period before Welch emptied the bench to allow the younger players to get some varsity minutes.
Welch felt that better defense was the key to the 9-0 run. “We started to rotate better defensively and offensively we were able to get some baskets because they had to extend their defense and we exploited it,” he said. “They kept their defense packed in early but our guards did a good job. When they extended to stop our guards, our big men could get involved. Defensively, we began to communicate better.”
The team also improved at the free throw line, hitting 19-of-25.
“As a whole we let the game come to us and played within ourselves,” Welch said. “We didn’t try to do things we can’t do.”