Oldham County High School boys’ basketball coach Jason Holland didn’t mince words when describing his team’s 49-36 loss to rival North Oldham on Jan. 11:
“We were awful. It was the worst game we played all year.”
With a chance to avenge that loss — and with their season on the line — the Colonels came through Wednesday night.
Sam Gruber scored a game-high 18 points and the host Colonels shot a blistering 69.2 percent to beat North Oldham 57-40 in a 29th District Tournament semifinal.
Oldham County (22-7) entered the tournament as the No. 3 seed but defeated the second-seeded Mustangs (18-11) to clinch one of the district’s spots in next week’s Eighth Region Tournament. The Colonels will face top-seeded South Oldham at 8 p.m. Friday in the district final.
The Colonels have won two straight regional titles and reached the Sweet 16 last season.
“A lot of teams are shooting for what we’ve accomplished the last two years,” Holland said.
Anthony Johnson scored 12 points and Jacob Kopp added 11 for the Colonels, who hit 18 of 26 shots.
Conversely, it was an offensive struggle for a North Oldham squad that shot just 23.4 percent (11 of 47). David Levitch, who has committed to the University of Louisville as a walk-on, led the Mustangs with 13 points but hit just 2 of 14 shots from the field.
“We’ve shot it well all year, but for whatever reason we didn’t shoot it well tonight,” first-year North Oldham coach Chris Stobaugh said. “Ultimately that falls on the coach. I didn’t do a good job of getting the guys the looks they’re accustomed to getting.”
After a slow-moving first quarter that ended with the score tied at 6, Oldham County used a 14-2 run to take a 23-11 halftime lead.
Gruber, who hit back-to-back 3-pointers during the run, said the difference in the two meetings with North Oldham was confidence.
“The first time we played them, we were timid,” he said. “This time we had a nine-game winning streak going in, and everybody felt confident about what they had to do.”
Levitch nailed three free throws to pull North Oldham within 39-32 with 4:20 remaining before Oldham County put it away.
Kopp hit two free throws for a 41-32 lead, and Garrett Masters blocked a shot on North Oldham’s next possession. The Colonels hit 5 of 6 free throws on their next possession — taking advantage of a foul, a technical foul and another foul — to make it 46-32 with 2:33 remaining.