NEW CASTLE, Ky. – At the start of the Eighth Region boys’ basketball tournament, many people expected the final to be a district tournament rematch.
It turns out they were right, although it’s not the rematch most anticipated.
Cobe Penny and Dylan Pittman scored 18 points apiece, and Christian Gritton added 17 to lift Anderson County past South Oldham 65-56 in a semifinal at Henry County Monday night.
By dispatching the Dragons (26-6), the defending regional champs and the No. 15 team in The Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings, the Bearcats play Collins Tuesday night for the right to represent the region in next week’s Sweet 16. Last week, the Titans knocked off No. 13 Oldham County in the regional first round.
The final will be a rematch of the 30th District championship game, which Anderson won 53-44 at Collins on Feb. 24.
Bearcats coach Glen Drury said he knows his team wants to celebrate a victory over the team that beat them in the regional final last season. However, the veteran coach reminded his players of what’s ahead of them.
“Collins and us was a one-point game with three minutes to go, so we know it’s going to be a war,” Drury said about the district final.
The late semifinal featured two of the state’s most prolific 3-point shooting teams, as both squads combined to put up 1,445 attempts this season. However, they both ended up struggling from beyond the arc Monday night.
Anderson County (21-11), which ranked 20th in the state in 3-point shooting, made just 4-of-16. South Oldham, which was fourth-best from beyond the arc percentage wise, only made 5-of-29 Monday night. Still, the Dragons made 370 this season and broke their state record from last season for most 3-pointers made, coach Steve Simpson said.
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“It was just one of those nights,” Simpson said. “I thought it was more our defense overall that hurt us, but hats off to Anderson County. They played a very good game.”
South Oldham allowed the Bearcats to shoot 45.8 percent from the floor, with Gritton making 7-of-10 shots.
Despite the Dragons woes on the perimeter, they were only down 55-51 with less than three minutes remaining. They forced the Bearcats into a turnover, but on South Oldham’s ensuing possession, Penny, a junior guard, came up big.
His steal and transition layup made it a six-point game with 2:46 remaining. It also started a 9-0 run that John Paul Garmon finished with two free throws to make it 64-51 with 27.1 seconds remaining.
Penny, who Drury believes should be a top candidate for Mr. Basketball next season, said he was lurking behind a taller teammate as he saw Jo Griffin bring the ball upcourt. Reading his eye, he took off for the ball once the Dragons senior tried to pass.
“I went for a risk, and ended up getting it,” the 5-11 Penny said.
Griffin, who will be a walk-on at the University of Louisville next season, finished his career with a 20-point performance.
Collins-Gallatin County: When his team absolutely needed him, Dayvion McKnight stepped up big time for Collins Monday night.
The freshman guard led the Titans (22-12) with 13 points, including a pair of free throws with 4.4 seconds left to secure a 48-44 victory over Gallatin County in a boys’ Eighth Region semifinal at Henry County.
McKnight went to the line after he secured a loose ball steal in the waning seconds as the Wildcats sought either a game-tying or game-winning shot. He calmly stepped up and made both ends of a one-and-one to give the Titans a four-point lead.
“Probably the biggest in my career here,” said the 5-foot-10 McKnight, who added seven assists and six rebounds.
McKnight’s play helped senior Charles Cochran earn at least one more game. The senior post player drew his fourth foul with 7:37 left in the final period. Titans coach Chris Gaither rolled the dice and kept the 6-foot-4 forward in. He was disqualified on a rare double foul on the Titans’ end with 6:01 remaining.
Collins, fresh off an upset of Oldham County in the regional quarterfinals last Wednesday, led 27-24 at halftime. The Titans then used a 9-1 run to start the second half to take an 11-point lead in the quarter. Cochran, who finished with 11 points, came up huge in the run, scoring the Titans’ last seven points in. His 3-pointer made it 36-25 with 5:28 left in third.
Titans coach Chris Gaither said he noticed that the Wildcats (20-13) struggled with the Titans’ 2-3 zone, which he used to start the second period.
“I thought our defense allowed us to get out in transition,” he said.
Reserve Justin Rassman led the Wildcats with 12 points.
EIGHTH REGION SEMIFINALS (at Henry County)
ANDERSON COUNTY 65 SOUTH OLDHAM 56
South Oldham (26-6, 17-4 Eighth Region)
Jo Griffin 20p, Devin Young 7p, Peyton Hicks 4p, Dyllon Hoover 12p, Luke Morrison 5p, Aaron Franklin 5p, David Beyerle 3p.
Anderson County (21-11, 8-6)
Cobe Penny 18p, John Paul Garmon 10p, Christian Gritton 17p, Dylan Pittman 18p, Zach Labhart 2p.
COLLINS 48, GALLATIN COUNTY 44
Gallatin County (20-13, 14-11 Eighth Region)
Zack Beatty 10p. Austin Steurer 7p 8r, Chase Spahn 4p, Mason Wilson 11p 3a, Justin Rassman 12p.
Collins (22-12, 13-3)
Jacob Feltner 5p, Nick Fort 5p, Dayvion McKnight 13p 7a 6r, Charlie Cochran 11p, Dominique Turner 7p 10r, Marcellus Vail 4p, Kyle Perdue 3p.