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Staring off on the right foot

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Cats win opening game, but fall on the road to Western Hills

By Greg Woods

The Henry County Wildcats opened their season in the best of ways: with a win at home.

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The Cats opened their season on Tuesday, Nov. 27, against the North Bullitt Eagles, with a 59-49 win.

The game featured several big runs by both teams but the Cats, despite inconsistent play, were able to pull out the 10-point victory because of dominate rebounding and clutch foul shooting down the stretch.

The Cats opened the game with a 14-3 run.

After the slow start, the Eagles pulled to within three points at 16-13 mainly by forcing four Wildcat turnovers in two minutes. James Wundrak pushed Henry’s lead back to 5 points on a layup to end the quarter.

The second period opened with another bucket by the Eagles coming off a Wildcat turnover. At that point the Wildcats regained their composure and began to take care of the basketball. The Cats went on a 12-2 run that featured a rim-rattling two-handed dunk by Chase Howard off a block and outlet pass from Dakota Estes.

North Bullitt got the last four points of the half to close the gap to 30-21 at halftime.

North Bullitt came out after halftime and turned up the defensive pressure with a ¾-court press that forced the Wildcats into numerous turnovers.

The turnovers turned into easy buckets for the Eagles as they opened with an 18-2 run to take a 39-32 lead with about four minutes remaining in the 3rd period.

A Brad West 3-pointer righted the ship for the Cats and ended North Bullitt’s run. From there the Cats closed the period on a 12-2 run that featured a West put back at the buzzer to go into the final period with a 44-41 lead.

In the fourth quarter the Cats, who had 21 turnovers on the night, managed to control the tempo and hang on to the basketball better than the previous three periods to come out with the 10-point victory.

The Cats used a semi-delay game to get open buckets inside and also hit 10-of-12 free throws to ice the game. Wildcat big men Austin Young and Derek Jeffries were responsible for all of the free throws except two by Landon New in the fourth period. New paced the Cats with 11 points on a night when the Cats had a very balanced scoring attack and got big contributions from their bench. The Wildcat bench led by West and Robbie Cruse outscored North Bullitt’s bench 18-6.

Coach Enoch Welch gave his team a mixed review after the game. “We were very inconsistent,” he said, “The overall effort was good all night, but we didn’t play with intelligence during the first part of the second quarter and the first part of the third quarter.

“The thing that I was impressed with was our resilience. When we got down we showed some fortitude in our ability to fight back. In the fourth quarter we were 9 of 11 from the line and defensively we played really lockdown defense. We had very little experience out there from last year’s team but there is no greater way to gain experience than playing the game.”

Welch thought the key to the victory was on the glass. “We outrebounded them by 8, 32-24,” he said.

“Now we have to learn to sustain our effort for the entire game.”

Western Hills 90 HCHS 57

The Wildcats crashed back to earth on Thursday when they traveled to Frankfort to take on Western Hills.

Welch’s former team opened hot and stayed hot throughout the game as they racked up 90 points while holding the Wildcats to 57.

The Cats found themselves down 11-2 in the opening minutes of the game, and Western Hills opened up a 15-point lead after one period. Western Hills scored 24 second period points to go up 44-14 at halftime.

The Cats played better in the second half but found the deficit too much too overcome. Henry county scored 25 3rd-period points and managed to play the Wolverines fairly evenly as the second half score was 46-43 in favor of Western Hills.

Coach Enoch Welch thought emotion played a big part in the Wolverines performance. “It was a highly emotional game for their kids playing against their former coach,” he said. “Their head coach is my former assistant and we’re still close. Neither of us enjoyed having to play each other very much. We looked forward to the game being over so we could talk more openly about our teams and strategize about future opponents.

“They hit over 50 percent of their shots. They beat us to all the 50-50 balls. They attacked the rim and also hit 10 three pointers. It was a perfect storm of offense and defense for them and we did little to disrupt it.”

Welch saw some positives in his team’s second half performance.

“I thought the second half we did a better job of establishing post play and defending inside-out,” he said. “We just dug too big a hole in the first half.

“Our coaches and players are not happy with the effort. We have to build off that. It’s one game and it’s a learning experience and there is a lot to learn from this. We are still very inexperienced and trying to establish an identity.”

Email us about this article at sports@hclocal.com.