It was just his sixth varsity start. But junior guard Landon New played beyond his experience at Carroll County, finding his range from beyond the 3-point line, and his stroke at the free throw line, to lead the Cats with 18 points in a crucial 59-57 district win.
The Wildcats came into the game needing a win against a district opponent. The Wildcats had opened 0-2 in district play after falling to Eminence and Gallatin. The task appeared to be difficult — Carroll came into the game undefeated in all games at 4-0.
The Wildcats made their task tougher, falling behind 6-0 in the opening minutes of the game. Coach Enoch Welch called an early timeout to stop the run from getting out of control. “We made a defensive adjustment, but more than anything, the guys just picked up their intensity,” he said.
Whether it was the defensive adjustment or better focus, the Cats played better the rest of the quarter outscoring the Panthers 15-4 the remainder of the period to lead 15-10 going into the second stanza.
Brad West — who had been hot from 3-point range to lead the Cats in their previous win against Shawe — played a key role again as he hit two more bombs in the opening period against the Panthers. “We started to execute the inside-outside game and Brad knocked down a couple of 3-pointers against their 1-3-1 zone defense to get us going,” Welch said.
The Cats continued to play stingy defense in the second period and edged out to a 7-point lead by halftime at 27-20.
The Cats maintained their lead in the third period as both teams scored 13 points. “Defensively, we did a great job on their best player, Dallas Gibson,” Welch said. “Unfortunately, he got loose on us in the fourth period.”
Gibson, one of the best players in the district, scored only 6 points in the first three periods, but scored 12 points in the fourth to lead a Panther rally that saw them close the gap to 2 points by the end of the game. But the Cats, led by New, hit their free throws down the stretch to hold on for the victory. Henry County hit 12 of 16 free throws in the final period with New going 5 of 6 at the line. For the game, New was 6 of 8 from the line and had two 3-pointers.
Welch was effusive in his praise of his point guard. “Landon New had a monster game. He stepped to the line and hit free throws when we needed it and he handled their pressure all night long.”
But he spread the praise to all his guards. “We did a good job attacking the rim and making the defense guard us the entire length of the floor,” he said. “Our guards did a great job of handling their pressure. They put pressure on the ball all over the floor. It was a good win over a senior-laden, quality team who was unbeaten coming into the game.”
Owen County 65 HCHS 53
After coming off of the big road win at Carrollton, the Wildcats hosted Owen County Friday night. But the Cats couldn’t maintain the momentum at home and fell to the Rebels by 12 points in a game where Owen County shot very well and Henry County struggled.
The Cats shot 38% for the game while Owen County shot 52%.
“They shot the ball extremely well but I thought we could have done a better job of closing out the shooters,” Welch said. “They were 4-8 from 3-point range and we were 1-12. We need to understand that we can take better shots even when we are trying to play an up tempo game.”
Owen County jumped on top early and finished the opening period ahead 19-11. But the Cats made a nice run after the lead had ballooned to double digits in the 2nd period. “In the 2nd quarter we did a good job of cutting the lead to 2 points but once again we didn’t sustain the effort,” Welch said.
Owen eventually pushed the lead to 10 points by halftime and kept the lead the rest of the night.
Welch sees signs of better focus but feels it still is lacking. “Our consistency is getting better, but to beat a quality opponent like Owen, it has to be all night, like it was at Carroll,” he said.
“Landon, Austin and Derek had good games, but I would like to see us be able to apply more pressure on the ball.”