The Henry County Wildcats jumped on the host Trimble County Raiders early on Feb. 18 and then cruised to a 67-57 win.
The Wildcats outscored the Raiders 21-8 in the first period before Trimble’s Michael Dunaway put on an offensive show to keep his team close.
“We got up on them pretty good early,” Coach Enoch Welch said. “We executed well on offense and our defensive schemes were working.”
The Raiders got their offense going by hitting four 3-pointers in the second period to win the quarter 20-18.
“They packed their zone in tight and were determined to try and keep us off the glass,” Welch said. “Trimble is a good team and we knew we would have our hands full. Michael Dunaway was an absolute beast for them. We wanted to force him away from the basket but to his credit he hit some outside shots.”
The Raiders cut two more points off the Wildcats’ lead in the third period but could not get enough stops to get closer than nine points as the Wildcats executed well with the lead down the stretch to get the 10-point win.
“We did a nice job of passing the ball around and still getting inside to James Wundrak and Austin Young,” Welch said. “Landon New and Brad West did a nice job of penetrating and getting to the goal. Austin and Chase Howard did a good job of rebounding. We got balanced scoring which is a good indication of playing team ball.”
Welch felt that the Cats’ experience paid off in a road game against a local rival.
“We got the lead in the first and maintained it,” he said. “We never panicked and we were solid down the stretch. It shows that we’re a senior-laden team.”
Simon Kenton 63 HCHS 57
The Henry County Wildcats took on the Simon Kenton Pioneers in their final home game of the season and despite taking a big lead early and then fighting back from a deficit, fell while getting a strong effort from the entire team.
The game was close in the opening minutes as the teams traded baskets and played at a high tempo. Simon Kenton edged out to a 16-12 lead with 2:01 left but the Wildcats reeled off eight straight points to finish the period with a 20-16 lead.
The run continued for the Cats into the second period as Dakota Estes hit a layup and Chase Howard went high for a put back on a missed lay up attempt to make it 24-16. The athletic display by Howard got the crowd fired up and Simon Kenton quickly called a timeout to try and stop the Cats’ momentum.
But the Cats continued to play well as Howard scored on another layup at 6:11 and then fed James Wundrak on a beautiful no-look pass for a wide open layup to make it 28-16.
Simon Kenton got a free throw at the 4:46 mark to stop the 16-0 run that stretched over two periods.
The Pioneers then began to assert their size and athleticism on the boards as they got several inside buckets and offensive rebounds. Simon Kenton outscored the Cats 17-4 over the final 4:46 of the half to take a 33-32 lead into the locker room.
The Pioneers continued to build on their lead after halftime and with 4:20 to go in the third period, they hit a layup on a strong drive to the basket to go up by 11 points.
The teams traded baskets for the next two minutes before the Cats went on a 5-0 run to cut the lead to six at 49-43 going into the final period of play.
The Wildcats pounded the ball inside to Young to start the fourth period and he responded with several tough post moves against the Pioneers’ defense, which was collapsing in on him all night. Young scored the first seven points of the period for the Wildcats while Simon Kenton got four points. With 5:42 to go the lead had shrunk to three at 53-50.
Brad West hit one of two free throws at 5:28 to get the Cats to within a single basket and Simon Kenton called timeout.
The Pioneers came out of the timeout and worked the ball around for over 30 seconds before getting an open 15-footer to increase the lead back to four points.
On Henry County’s next possession Landon New was fouled on a drive to the basket with 4:16 to go and hit both free throws.
Simon Kenton came down and worked the ball around trying to get some breathing room. The Wildcats eventually knocked the ball out of bounds. Simon Kenton took the ball out on the baseline and tried to make a long pass out to half court but Brad West intercepted the pass and streaked toward the basket for a tough layup with heavy defensive pressure from a taller opponent. The basket tied the score at 55 with 3:31 left in the game.
After West’s big basket neither team could score on two consecutive possessions although the Cats got good looks inside and had a couple of shots go in the cylinder and come out.
Simon Kenton called timeout with 2:13 to go to try to get the elusive go-ahead basket. After the timeout the Pioneers were patient as they probed the Cats’ defense for a weakness. They eventually worked the ball inside to score at 1:47.
The Cats came down and got another good look inside but the ball would not go down and a follow-up shot also rimmed out before Simon Kenton corralled a rebound and was fouled.
From there the Pioneers hit enough free throws down the stretch and limited the Cats to only two free throws by West to come out with a hard-fought six-point win in a very entertaining game.
Welch was pleased with his team’s effort despite the loss.
“We knew we had a tough test coming in to this game,” Welch said. “They were a big, physical team that plays hard. I thought our guys rose to the occasion.
“We got three straight good looks when it was tied and it just wouldn’t go down. To their credit, they stepped to the line and hit some big free throws.
“We had ourselves in position to beat one of the best teams in our region and I’ll take that effort any day. Now we need to carry that effort into the district tournament.”
Welch talked about the strong performance from his inside players.
“Austin took it upon himself to handle the paint against a bigger, physical opponent,” he said. “He and James did a good job roaming the paint all night.”
HCHS 64 Washington Co. 49
The Wildcats closed out the regular season on the road against a Washington County team with a lot to play for. The Commodores were saying goodbye to their old gym because the team will be playing in a new one next year and they were celebrating their senior night.
The Wildcats took care of business in the first half and then maintained the rest of the way for a solid 15-point victory to go into the postseason on a high note.
“We knew we had a fight on our hands because it was their senior night and they were saying goodbye to their old gym,” Welch said. “We got a huge night from Austin Young, who was seven for seven from the field and nine of 12 from the free throw line.”
The Wildcats jumped out to a 13-9 lead in the opening period as they leaned on Young for inside scoring and he responded with seven points.
“We were bigger in the post and we established our presence down there early,” Welch said. “They went zone to try and combat it but we executed our zone offense well and got good looks.”
The Wildcats got balanced scoring in the second half, including a 3-pointer each from Chase Howard and Nacona Jeffries to outscore Washington County 18-9 and take a 13-point lead into halftime.
The Commodores made a minor run in the third period to cut the lead to nine going into the final period but the Wildcats got another big period from Young in the fourth and pulled away for the double-digit win.
Welch was pleased with the play of West who scored eleven points and Nacona Jeffries who had seven.
“Brad had another good game getting to the rim and he got all over the floor for loose balls,” Welch said. “Nacona came off the bench and got us a bunch of rebounds.”
Welch was pleased that the team got themselves one step closer to reaching their season goals.
“We went on the road and won number 19,” he said. “Our goals were to win 20 games and go to the regional tournament. We have a daunting task against Gallatin County in the district to reach those goals.”