Cats close out season with win over Raiders

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Howard lob play sparks late rally

By Greg Woods


The Henry County Wildcats were trailing Trimble County in their final regular season game, when a lob play meant for Chase Howard ignited a 13-0 run to finish the game.

With 58 seconds to go, the Cats were down 45-43. Dakota Estes took a pass on the left wing, and hurled the ball toward the rim.

Howard came off a back screen at the top of the key and flew high in the air to corral the ball and lay it in, and was fouled. Howard sank the free throw to give the Cats the lead and all the momentum they would need to pull away in what had been a closely contested game.

The Cats opened the game with a 14-3 run and seemed to be on their way to a comfortable win. The Raiders had other ideas and closed the opening period with a 9-2 run to cut their deficit to 4 points.

Trimble chipped away at the lead in the second period until they had tied the score at 20. Then the Cats went on a 7-0 run led by Estes and Austin Young. Trimble came back with 6 points in a row to pull within 1 point at halftime.

 “We started the game really well, doing the things we wanted to do, but I think we got a false sense of security and began to take ill-advised shots,” Henry coach Enoch Welch said. “It turned into transition points for them.”

The Raiders took their first lead of the game with a 3-pointer to open the third period and the teams traded buckets the remainder of a low-scoring quarter; The Raiders packed their defense tight inside and the Wildcats worked patiently to get the ball inside to their big men.

Trailing 38-37, the Raiders hit two free throws late in the period to lead going into the fourth ahead by 1 point.

“Give Trimble credit for the adjustments they made,” Welch said. “Coach (John) Leap does a tremendous job. They won 14 games this year which is one of the best turnarounds in the region.”

In the fourth period both teams struggled to get their offenses going as the Raiders outscored the Wildcats 4-1 through the first 3:30 of the quarter. The Raiders called timeout on their next possession to set up a play, but they came up empty and Derrick Jeffries scored on a nice baseline drive to cut the lead to 43-41.

Both teams went through another scoring drought until 2:08 was left in the game.

After another Raider timeout they were able to work for a layup with 1:38 left.

Young answered immediately for the Cats with an inside basket that made it 45-43 with 1:18 left. Henry County called timeout after the basket to set up their press. But the Raiders broke it easily, only to turn the ball over on their own baseline while driving to the basket.

That set the scene for Howard’s big lob play that broke the game open.

The Raiders had a chance to tie on their next possession but missed the front end of the bonus situation. Landon New was fouled and hit both of his free throws to give the Cats a 3-point lead.

Trimble called timeout at 29.7 seconds to set up a 3-point play, but the shot was off the mark. Derrick Jeffries rebounded the miss and was fouled immediately.

He hit both free throws to give the Cats a 5-point lead with 18.5 seconds left. Howard then got a steal on the Raiders’ next possession and scored on an old-fashioned 3-point play to seal the game. He added two more free throws on a technical foul that was called on the Raider bench to set the final margin.

Welch was pleased with how his team finished the game.

“I thought our guys did a nice job hanging in there and not panicking,” he said. “That is a sign of maturity, and then finishing in the last two minutes. With about a minute left we got the lob to Chase and it got his motor going and changed the complexity of the game.”