Cats shake off 'nervous start' for win

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Two of three Henry County games called off last week, which left Wildcats with 1-0 record

By Tommie Kendall

The Henry County boys’ basketball team shook off a sluggish start against Trimble County in both teams’ season opener to come away with a slim 54-52 win on the road last Tuesday night.

The Wildcats dug an 11-4 deficit before climbing out of the hole, overtaking Trimble and holding on down the stretch for the two-point victory, which pointed the Cats in the right direction in an unpredictable season. During the first-quarter woes, the visiting Cats left Trimble players wide open with ill-timed traps, was just 1-of-8 from the free-throw line and missed three layups. They eventually turned the tables, though, and never trailed during the final three quarters despite some late runs by Trimble.

“Our kids were just too excited to start the game. We were nervous, which was expected for our first game,” Henry coach Jason Holland said afterwards. “It was probably my fault because we came out in a full-court press and I told our players to get after it. After that, I thought we played a very good second quarter.”

Holland started Steven Tillett, Conner Jeffries, Cody Hinkel, Brad Taylor and Trevor Raisor, while Hayden Yancey, Spud Baldwin, Ryan Mitchell, Pete Baldwin and Brack Way came off the bench to give Henry a spark at various times. Taylor and Tillett picked up two quick fouls, which sent the two wing players to the bench early. Holland decided to re-enter both players during the second quarter when Henry switched to a 2-3 zone and it paid off as Tillett knocked down three three-point baskets during one stretch to put the Cats ahead for good. At the half, Henry was in front 25-21.

“We felt pretty good at being ahead considering we hadn’t made many free throws and we missed some layups,” said Holland, whose team settled down after the first few minutes. “One positive we got from that second quarter is we picked each other up. They picked me up and our subs came in and picked up our starters. We only had five turnovers that first half — I was proud of that — but I also felt like we left some points out there that we should have had.”

The game went back and forth during the third quarter with Trimble closing the gap to just three points with a quarter remaining. Henry got ahead by as much as eight points during the fourth before Trimble started to close the gap again. Tillett fouled out late in the game, and was followed by Taylor the very next play. The rest of the Wildcats were able to hold off Trimble.

“I couldn’t be more pleased,” Holland said. “We got stops when we needed to and made free throws when we had to have them. I was proud of our players in the fourth quarter. Everyone on our team made a big play at some point in the game.”

During the fourth-quarter stretch, Jeffries knocked down a key three-point basket, Raisor connected on a needed free throw, Hinkel had a put back and Yancey took a big charge. It was just the string of plays Henry needed to come away with a win.

The Wildcats were at a disadvantage from the get-go with Pete Baldwin, the team’s would-be starting point guard, missing most of the game with an ankle injury he suffered towards the end of football season a couple of weeks ago. Baldwin did play a couple of minutes during the fourth quarter but his play was limited and he was not in the starting lineup like projected in the pre-season.

Tillett, despite fouling out, led the Henry charge with a game-high 18 points. Jeffries, Hinkel and Taylor scored eight points each while Raisor added six. Holland played 10-11 players during the up and down game, he said.

Henry’s other two games that were scheduled for last week — both at home — were canceled. The North Bullitt game Friday night was canceled due to a contract issue, while the Model game Saturday was canceled at the last minute when Model couldn’t get a bus to transport the team to New Castle. The North Bullitt game might be made up with another opponent later in the season, while the Model game was moved to this past Monday night.

“This team is very coachable and I think we will continue to get better,” Holland said. “We will be a very good basketball team. We’ve had a lot of distractions so far with the games canceled. Now, we have to get back on track and in a routine.”

After the Model game Monday, Henry hosted Cornerstone Christian Tuesday, will host Gallatin County this Friday and travel four miles down the road to Eminence the following night. Both varsity games are scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m.

The Wildcats will then play Carroll County next Monday, which makes five games during an early-season eight-day stretch.

E-mail us about this story at sports@hclocal.com.