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'Cardiac Cats' play to name

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By Tommie Kendall

After the 31st District tournament last week, I’ll have to give the Henry County Wildcats a thanks for doing what they do best: keeping fans on the edge of their seats and this reporter exhaling at the end of games. They truly are the Cardiac Cats, which is a title no team has been more deserving to have.

I haven’t been able to exercise much this winter due to a few nagging injuries but the Wildcats have kept my heart rate at an all-time high. Don’t believe me? Go watch Henry play in the 8th Region tournament this week and you will see what I mean.

If you want exciting basketball, that’s exactly what this squad has given us this season. Out of the Wildcats’ 29 games, 19 have been decided by single digits, 17 have been decided by five points or less, 12 have been decided by three points or less and four have been decided by Henry buzzer beaters — two from Steven Tillett and one each from Connor Jeffries and Cody Hinkel. Also, they currently have an impressive 21-8 record, won three tournaments, competed in the All “A” Classic state tournament the first year they were eligible since the 1998-99 school year, and advanced to the regional tournament for the 17th time in school history. With the regional tournament yet to be played, it’s been a remarkable ride already.

In the district tournament last week, the Wildcats defeated Carroll County by one point in the opening round then lost to Owen County by five points in the championship game. Both outings came down to the wire.

In the Carroll contest last Wednesday night, Henry didn’t take the lead for good until the final 30 seconds with Carroll missing a last-second attempt that would have reversed the outcome. And in the Owen contest three days later, Henry led for much of the game before Owen went ahead for good with 1:08 remaining. The 31st District has been tight all season with the four teams — including Gallatin County — tied in the race for seeding after the regular season, and it was no different in the exciting season finale.

In the regional tournament this week, the Wildcats will be trying to put an exclamation point to an already successful 2008-09 campaign. The only time they’ve won the regional tournament was in 1962 when the county schools consolidated. Now, 47 years later, they will open the same tourney against South Oldham this Thursday at 6:30 p.m. on their home court.

I’m sure it will be an emotional game. I’m sure it will come down to the closing minutes. And I’m sure my heart rate will continue to soar. Now it’s time to sit back and enjoy the ride.

Tommie can be reached at sports@hclocal.com.