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Colonels end Cats' season

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11-0 run by Colonels dooms Cats

By Greg Woods

 

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The Henry County Wildcats’ dream game turned into a nightmare because of an 11-0 run by the Oldham County Colonels that spanned the end of the third quarter and the first 49 seconds of the fourth quarter in the opening round of the 8th Region basketball tournament on Friday night.

The Colonels used the run to go on to a 72-59 win that propelled them into the semifinals. The final score was not indicative of how close and intense the game was for the first three quarters. Oldham County (23-6) started with a 6-0 run in the first period as Henry County (20-11) turned the ball over on three of their first four possessions.

“Their pressure rattled us to start the game,” Coach Enoch Welch said. “We took a timeout and talked about how wide open the middle of their press was. After that, we got some good looks and got into some 3 on 2 situations and got back into the game.”

Henry County went on a 6-2 run to make it 8-6 in favor of the Colonels with 3:10 left in the opening period. From there the teams played evenly until a Robbie Cruse put back of his own missed shot and a Dakota Estes bucket inside gave the Cats their first lead at 13-12 with 55 seconds to go. Oldham County closed out the period with the final three points to lead 15-13.

The Cats continued to show confidence in the second period and eventually pulled ahead by five points at 24-19 on a Chase Howard steal and layup with 3:45 left before halftime. Oldham County came back with five straight points to tie it at 24.

After Landon New’s layup and a free throw by Austin Young made it 29-26, Oldham County found itself with possession of the ball for the final shot. The Colonels’ Hayden Hawes made a great crossover move to get open and when the Henry County defense stepped up to cut off his drive, he dished to a teammate for the final points of the half and closed the gap to one point at 29-28.

The Wildcats came out of the locker room for the third period and extended their lead back to five points on two free throws by New and a runner by Chase Howard with 5:56 showing on the clock.

“In the third quarter we came out focused,” Welch said. “We talk about coming out and setting the tone in the first three minutes of the second half. I thought we did that in this game.

The Colonels answered by scoring the next nine points to lead 37-33 with 4:17 to go in the third period.

Austin Young scored on a strong inside move and was fouled. He hit the free throw to complete the three-point play and then Dakota Estes hit one of two free throws to make it 37-37 with 3:41 left.

At that point the Cats got a big lift off the bench from sophomore Gavin Jameson who came into the game and scored the Cats’ next six points to help the Cats edge ahead 43-41 with 1:01 left to play.

“We had a stretch where it was tied or we were ahead by one point where we missed five or six free throws that could have helped us extend the lead,” Welch said.

An Oldham County 3-pointer with 54 seconds left began the nightmare stretch that ended the Cats’ season. The Colonels another basket with 32 seconds left in the third period and then scored six more points in just 49 seconds of the final period to take a 52-43 lead.

“When they came out in the fourth period, they ratcheted up the defensive pressure and we had three quick turnovers to go down by 10,” Welch said. “At that point we were fighting an uphill battle. But we never stopped fighting.”

Henry County recovered their composure and cut the lead to six points on a layup by Brad West with 4:08 to play. West hit one of two free throws at 3:59 to make it a five point game but the Cats were forced to press and foul down the stretch, and although the Colonels struggled at the free throw line, their defensive pressure kept the Cats at bay as they gradually stretched the lead out to the final 13-point margin.

“I called these kids the Battle Cats because they never gave up,” Welch said. “Their record is indicative of that. There haven’t been too many 20-win seasons around here and these guys set the tone for what will be expected from players in the future.

“I felt like we got the worst draw in the tournament but when I told the kids who we drew, they didn’t drop their heads. They wanted to play the best to prove themselves and I felt like they did that.”

Welch has been impressed with the closeness of his team.

“This is a tight-knit group,” he said. “Our underclassmen were hurting as much as the seniors. It’s a brotherhood between these guys and they really look out for each other.

“It’s a special group and I think the community embraced them and they wanted to earn that respect,” Welch continued. “Their motto since middle school has been ‘respect earned, respect given.’ I think they lived up to that.”