HCHS Wildcats falter down the stretch in 58-55 loss

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By Tommie Kendall

In what turned out to be the final regular-season game for the Henry County boys' basketball team, the Wildcats took a disappointing 58-55 loss to host Trimble County last Tuesday night.

The Wildcats, who were ahead by as many as 14 points, struggled just enough during the fourth quarter to allow Trimble back into the game. And the Raiders' three-point play with 40 seconds left put them ahead for good as they celebrated Senior Night with a victory, and sent Henry back to New Castle with its 18th loss of the season. It was the eighth time this year the Cats have lost a game by single digits.

"We played well the first half to get a lead but during the second half, when Trimble made their run, we didn't hold onto it very well," Henry coach Jason Holland said. "We back paddled and kept back paddling the rest of the game. We were the team being hunted, and we gave in."

Henry (7-18, 4-14 8th Region) played well on both sides of the ball during the first half against the Raiders, holding a 34-23 advantage at the break. But Trimble (10-14, 7-9) started to close the gap during the second half, and midway through the fourth quarter pulled even and eventually moved into the lead.

The teams battled down the stretch, which was see-saw action, including two three-pointers from Henry's Steven Tillett followed by an answer at the other end. Henry went back ahead in the closing minute, but a Trimble three-point play with just 40 seconds remaining put the Raiders in front 57-55. The Wildcats then coughed up the ball, Trimble hit a free throw at the other end and the Raiders held on for the three-point win.

"Trimble forced us into a lot of shots we didn't want to take, and our turnovers allowed them to get back into the game," Holland said.

The Wildcats finished with 15 turnovers, including six down the stretch, were outrebounded 24-21 and were outscored by 14 points at the free-throw line - Henry was 4-of-6 at the line and Trimble was 18-of-30. It didn't help that Henry was missing senior Cari Dunaway, who was sidelined with an illness. His seven to eight rebounds per outing were missed by the Cats, who also were without his strong defensive presence.

"Cari is our team captain on defense, he calls the plays," Holland said of the defensive centerpiece. "And during the second half, it really showed."

Tillett moved into the starting rotation for Dunaway, knocking down three three-point baskets at needed times.

The leading scorers for Henry were senior guards Joey Pollard and Ben Roberts with 11 points each. But it wasn't enough.

The Wildcats were supposed to celebrate Senior Night Friday against Williamstown, but the game was moved to Saturday due to the weather and eventually canceled. Their next game will be Wednesday when they travel to Owen County High School to play Gallatin County in the opening round of the 31st District tournament.

Gallatin, the No. 1 seed in the tourney, defeated Henry, the No. 4 seed, twice during the regular season. But Holland hopes things will be different when the two squads take to the court again.

"Now, we just have to get ready for Wednesday when we play one of the top teams in the region," Holland said. "Hopefully, we get the lead and we're able to hold onto it this time."

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