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C.J. Penny's last-second basket lifts Anderson over Shelby in 8th Region finals

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By Tommie Kendall

Sports Editor

C.J. Penny hit a long-range shot at the buzzer and the Anderson County Bearcats are headed to the Sweet 16 State Tournament for the first time since 1997.

Thanks to Penny's last-second three-pointer, which sent a packed gym into a frenzy, the Bearcats came away with a 52-49 win over Shelby County in a thrilling boys' 8th Region tournament finals at Henry County High School on Tuesday night. This will mark Anderson's fourth time making the trip to the Sweet 16 — with the first three coming in 1971, 1974 and 1997. Shelby, on the other hand, has advanced to state 16 times including last season.

Anderson and Shelby played three times this year with Anderson defeating the Rockets each time out for the sweep, including one regular-season game, the 30th District finals and the regional finals. Anderson will play the winner of the 16th Region on March 19 at 8 p.m. inside Rupp Arena — either Lewis County or Elliot County.

Anderson improved to 24-5 and have now won 15 of its last 16 games, while Shelby ended its season at 16-15 and winning nine of its last 11. Though the Shelby-Anderson rivalry dates back years, this was the first time the two schools met in the regional finals.

The two squads went back and forth in a thrilling finish to a tight region. Anderson was in front 16-13 after the first quarter and the score was tied at 26 at the half. Anderson then started the second half on a spurt, led by Penny with six points, two rebounds, two steals and an assist during a two-minute stretch that put the Bearcats in front by seven points. But the Rockets closed the gap to 39-37 with a quarter remaining and tied the game at 39 just 30 seconds into the fourth quarter on a Nigel Beach jumper. Donovan Johnson capped off a Shelby run with an inside basket to put Shelby in front 42-39 with 5:10 left.

Anderson's Jacob Russell swished a free throw with 1:12 on the clock to tie the game at 49. Shelby then ran the clock down on its next possession before being fouled with just 4.2 seconds left. The Rockets missed the front end of the one-and-one, Anderson got the rebound and got the ball to Penny, who let it go from about 25 feet out for the game winning basket.

The last time Anderson won the 8th Region title was in 1997 when the Bearcats defeated Oldham County in the championship game. This is the first time they have been back to the finals since. Before 1997, the last time they won was in 1974 when they defeated Scott County for the title. Anderson's first trip to the Sweet 16 was in 1971 when Jimmy Dan Conner led the Cats all the way to the state finals.

Meanwhile, Shelby has been to the Sweet 16 State Tournament 16 times, winning the state championship twice — 1966 when led by Mike Casey and 1978 when led by Charles Hurt. Last season, after winning the regional title, the Rockets knocked out Lincoln County (70-58) and Hazard (53-50) in the first two rounds before losing to state champs Mason County (60-50) in the semifinals.

Anderson is coached by Glen Drury, who played for Anderson during the mid-1970s, while Shelby is coached by Mike Clark, who played for Shelby during the early-1990s.

Semifinals

Anderson 45, Owen 28: Trailing Owen County 19-17 at the half Monday night, the Anderson County Bearcats outscored Owen 26-9 during the final two quarters to come away with a 17-point victory and advance to the finals of the 8th Region tournament.

Anderson scored the first 12 points of the third quarter and cruised in for the win at Henry County High School. Jacob Russell lead Anderson with 14 points while teammate C.J. Penny scored 11.

Anderson improved to 23-5 and advanced to play Shelby County Tuesday night. Owen ended its season at an even 15-15.

Shelby 57, Henry 40: The Shelby County Rockets never trailed against host Henry County in the second semi-final game Monday night and came away with a 57-40 win to advance to the 8th Region tournament finals.

Shelby scored the game's first four points and held a 12-7 lead after the first quarter. Henry's Connor Jeffries found Pete Baldwin inside for two points to tie the game at 12 with 6:10 left in the second quarter. But Shelby's Donovan Johnson scored at the other end and the Rockets pulled away. At the half they were ahead 27-18 and after the third they were ahead 42-26. Their biggest lead was 19 points early in the fourth quarter.

Johnson scored a game-high 21 points for Shelby, who improved to 16-14, are the defending 8th Region champs, the 30th District runners-up and advanced to the regional finals against Anderson County. Meanwhile, Henry ended its season at 22-9.

First Round

Owen 57, Grant 56: The boys' 8th Region basketball tournament got off to exciting start last Wednesday night at Henry County High School with Owen County and Grant County needing an overtime period to decide the outcome. After the four quarters, plus the OT, Owen came away with a 57-56 victory to advance to the semifinals.

Owen, the winner from the 31st District, improved to 15-14 while Grant, the runners-up from the 32nd District, ended its season at 19-13.

In the opening-round contest, Grant was ahead 8-7 after the first quarter, Owen was ahead 22-16 after the second, Owen was ahead 33-23 after the third and the score was tied at 47 after the fourth. Grant rallied for 24 points during the fourth-quarter stretch to send the game into overtime, but Owen came away with the one-point win in the extra time.

Kody Thompson led Grant in scoring with a game-high 21 points. For Owen, Collin Gamble knocked down three three-pointers and finished with 16 points, Drew Marston scored 14 and Michael Colligan added 11.

Anderson 52, North Oldham 42: C.J. Penny scored 27 points last Wednesday night in the second of two first-round games and his Anderson County Bearcats came away with a 52-42 win over North Oldham in the boys' 8th Region tournament at Henry County High School. Anderson improved to 22-5 and North ended its season at 19-11

To go along with Penny, teammate Jacob Russell added 14 points. North Oldham was led in scoring by Tyler St. Julien with 13, including three three-pointers, while Alex Foley added 11. Anderson led 12-8 after the first quarter and 21-18 at the half before outscoring North 31-24 during the final two quarters to seal a spot in the semifinals.

Henry 59, South Oldham 54: Led by 23 points from senior center Cody Hinkel, the Henry County Wildcats defeated South Oldham last Thursday night to advance to the semifinals of the 8th Region tournament. Hinkel carried the team down low, while Pete Baldwin came off the bench to score 10 points and Steven Tillett added 10. For South, junior guard Casey Jackson led the way with four three-pointers and 17 points.

The Wildcats led for much of the first half, the score was tied at 26 at the break and South Oldham went in front during the third-quarter stretch. South's biggest lead was 37-30 midway through the third. But Henry went back in front on a Hinkel inside basket with 5:40 remaining and the Cats were able to hold on down the stretch for the five-point victory. They outscored South 22-12 during the final eight minutes. Henry improved to 22-8 and South ended its season at 13-15.

Shelby 42, Simon Kenton 39: The Shelby County Rockets went ahead for good with just 18.7 seconds left in the final quarter and held off Simon Kenton for a 42-39 win in the opening round of the 8th Region tournament last Thursday night.

Nigel Beach, who finished with just four points, hit two free throws with 18.7 left to break a 39-39 tie. The game was tied at 10 after the first quarter, Shelby was ahead 22-13 after the second and Simon Kenton was ahead 28-27 after the third. Simon built its lead to seven points during the final quarter before Shelby rallied for the three-point win.

Donavon Johnson scored a team-high 10 points for Shelby, while Langdon Barnes scored 16 for Simon and freshman guard Cody Chambers added 13.

Shelby improved to 15-14 and Simon ended its season at 9-17.

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