With 5.6 seconds left on the clock, and the score 51-50 in Shelby County’s favor, Henry County’s Derek Jeffries rebounded a missed Shelby County shot and started down the floor.
He was heading for a last-second desperation shot, but head coach Enoch Welch called a timeout as the senior approached half-court.
The Cats set up a sideline out-of-bounds play that led to a 52-51 Wildcat victory.
“The play had four options,” Welch said. “Chase Howard did a good job of checking all four options and used a ball fake to get it to Derek for a high percentage shot. Derek did a great job of angling his body to get the ball around the backboard because he was deep on the baseline.”
On the final play Jeffries attempted to set a screen for Austin Young, the game’s high scorer with 22 points. But Shelby County did a good job of jamming the lane between Jeffries and Young, so Jeffries slipped off the screen to the baseline. Howard’s pass from half-court was on the money, but the ball deflected off Jeffries’ hands and hit the ground. The ball bounced high back into Jeffries’ hands and he released the shot from slightly behind the backboard as the buzzer sounded. The ball nestled into the net and the Henry County players began to celebrate the unlikely victory.
The win gave Henry County its fourth consecutive victory after a rough stretch to begin the New Year.
“I thought we showed some resilience in being able to hang in until the end even when we were down,” he said.
The game was close from the opening tip with neither team leading by more than four points in the first half. Shelby’s largest lead came at 14-10 late in the first period, while Henry’s largest lead was three points about midway through the second period on a James Wundrak put-back.
Neither team could find the range from outside in the first half, with all scoring in the paint or at the free throw line. Young’s two free throws late in the half tied the score going into the break at 25.
The Wildcats came out of the locker room and scored the first 4 points of the period to take a 29 -25 lead on a Young put back and Jeffries inside move.
But Shelby County went on a 7-2 run that concluded with a three-pointer, the first outside basket of the game, to take a 32-31 lead.
Henry County then went on a 10-0 run to take a 9-point lead. Howard had 8 of the 10 points in the run on two free throws and two 3-pointers as the Rockets went to a zone defense to try to stop the Wildcats’ potent inside game.
Shelby County countered with a 3-pointer late in the period to cut the margin to 6 going into the fourth quarter.
Shelby County opened the quarter with a 6-2 run to cut the lead to 2 points. Henry County called timeout to stop the run and Derek Jeffries hit a free throw to stretch the lead back to three points.
Henry County went to a spread offense designed to get Shelby County to come out of their zone. The ploy worked, but the Cats missed and Shelby County came down court and tied the score on an old-fashioned 3-point play with 3:58 to go.
With momentum on their side, the Rockets scored inside to take their first lead since early in the third quarter. The Rockets set up their press to take advantage of their momentum, but the Cats hit Jeffries on a long out-of-bounds pass and he scored to tie the game at 46 with just over two minutes left.
The Rockets scored inside to take the lead and then regained possession with a chance to get some breathing room, but they turned the ball over with 2 minutes to go. The Wildcats returned the favor seven seconds later and the Rockets took advantage with a runner in the lane to lead 50-46 with 1:38 to play.
Young cut the margin to 2 points after an assist from Landon New.
Shelby County hit one of two free throws with 59.2 seconds to go, increasing their lead to three points. It was their last bucket.
Young then scored on a jumper from the elbow with 35.9 seconds to go, cutting Shelby’s lead to 1 point.
The Cats called timeout after the basket to set up their press. The press worked as the Rockets turned the ball over with 17.9 seconds to go.
The Cats worked the ball from half court and Dakota Estes got open for a runner on the baseline that wouldn’t drop. Shelby County rebounded and was immediately fouled with 5.6 seconds left, setting up the final winning sequence.
The Cats’ inside game proved too much for the Rockets with Young, Jeffries and Wundrak scoring 39 of the Wildcats’ 52 points. Jeffries had 11 points and 10 rebounds and Wundrak came off the bench to contribute 6 points in the first half.
“The three big men did a good job and Derek had his third double-double in four games,” Welch said.
South Oldham 64, Henry County 51
The Cats hoped to continue their winning ways Friday night as they hosted the 8th Region’s 2nd ranked South Oldham Dragons.
But the Dragons deadly outside shooting was too much for the Cats as 36 of the Dragons 64 points were from 3-point range.
The Dragons started the game with a 3-pointer; but Jeffries countered with a layup off an assist from Howard and Young hit two free throws to give the Cats and 4-3 lead.
South hit two consecutive 3-pointers and a layup off a turnover to take and 11-4 lead. Henry continued pounding inside and Young and Jeffries each scored again to cut it to 11-8.
The teams traded baskets for the rest of the quarter with South taking a 16-12 lead.
South continued to use their pressure defense and 3-point shooting while the Cats relied on getting the ball inside for the most part and the teams went into halftime with the margin just four points at 32-28.
Brad West came off the bench to contribute 7 points on a 3-pointer and two inside baskets off assists from Jeffries who exploited openings in the Dragons’ half-court trap defense all night to get his teammates baskets.
Jeffries had an outstanding half, scoring 8 points and dished out several assists. Jeffries ended the night with 8 points, nine assists and 12 rebounds; one basket and one assist shy of a triple-double.
The Dragons opened the third quarter with another 3-pointer before Jeffries found Howard on a backdoor pass for a layup. The Dragons continued to hit long-range jumpers while the Cats found seams in the pressure defense. Fifteen of South’s 19 points in the period came on 3-pointers that helped them extend the lead to 12 points by the end of the third.
The Dragons opened the fourth period with another dagger from the arc to extend the lead to 15 points.
The Cats responded with a 6-0 run cutting the lead back to nine points at 54-45. After the Dragons hit a rare two-pointer from just inside the arc, the Cats called timeout at 5:04. Coming out of the timeout the Cats worked the ball to Young inside and he was fouled. Young sank two more free throws — he was 9 for 9 on the night — to cut the lead back to 9 points. The Cats got the ball back at the 3:28 mark with a chance to cut it to seven and South Oldham coach Steve Simpson called timeout feeling a Cats run might be coming.
The Dragons got a stop coming out of the timeout and the Cats came out of their match-up zone defense to try to force the Dragons into turnovers.
South hit a layup to extend the lead back to eleven and that play finished off the Cats as South traded baskets with the Cats down the stretch to keep the margin at 11 points before a meaningless shot at the buzzer to extended the final margin to 13.
“If that’s the number two team in the region, and I think they are, then we can play with anybody in the region, but we don’t want to just play with them, we want to win and you could see that in our kids’ faces,” Welch said. “They were playing to win that game. They hit 12 3-pointers and some of them we closed out well on. It’s not like we played them on a night when they played poorly.”
Welch was especially pleased with Jeffries and West who ended the night with 15 points. “Derek was the leader we’ve asked him to be tonight,” he said. “Verbally and by example, he was making sure everyone was in the right place. He had a great game passing the ball. Brad had an all-around good game offensively and defensively. He really stepped up tonight.”
Oldham Co. 54,
The Wildcats were back in action on Monday night against Oldham County in the Martin Luther King Classic at Henry County. The Wildcats led for much of the game before falling to the Colonels in the fourth quarter.
The game started slowly as both teams played a deliberate pace.
Henry struggled to find the basket and Oldham was plagued by turnovers early. The Cats got on the board first on two free throws by Young at the 6:08 mark. Oldham got their first basket on a drive with three minutes left in the opening period. The teams traded three baskets each to make the score 8-8 at the end of the opening period.
Oldham started the second period with 2 consecutive inside baskets to go up 12-8 before Wundrak answered inside for the Cats. After an Oldham put-back, West hit a 3-pointer to help the Cats close within one point. From there the Cats outscored the Colonels 8-4 to take a three-point lead into the locker room.
The teams played evenly throughout the third quarter. The Cats went on a 9-2 run to get the lead to 10 points, followed by a Colonels’ 9-2 run to cut it back to three points. The final period started with the Cats holding a 34-30 lead.
The Colonels put on a 7-0 run in the first 51 seconds of the final period that gave them a 3-point lead and it proved to be the turning point in the game as the Wildcats never led again.
The Colonels maintained and increased the lead down the stretch with good foul shooting and pressure defense in the final minutes.
Dakota Estes’ two free throws with just a minute to play brought the Wildcats within 3 points, but the Cats turned it over on three of their final four possession as the Colonels stretched the margin to nine points by game’s end.
“We did a good job of making them play at our pace,” Welch said. “We controlled the majority of the game. Oldham County is a well-coached basketball team that doesn’t take bad shots. We knew that they were capable of making a run and we did a poor job of weathering that run. They didn’t seem to have an answer for us in the paint in the first three quarters but they outrebounded us tremendously in the fourth quarter.”
Welch likes the improvement he has seen over the last couple of weeks but feels the team needs to take another step. “There is no doubt that we have proven this week that we can play with the best teams in the region, now we just have to finish,” he said. “Our mantra needs to be, ‘never satisfied until we finish’.”