NEW CASTLE, Ky.
NEW CASTLE, Ky.
Oldham County passed its first test in the boys’ Eighth Region Tournament, beating Henry County 72-59 Friday night, but the Colonels had to get their act together in the second half to nail down their 23rd victory in 29 games.
Nine players scored for Oldham County, which trailed 29-28 at halftime, with Hayden Hawes and Conner Hicks each registering 14 points to help the Colonels advance to a semifinal meeting with Simon Kenton (14-13) at 8 p.m. Monday at the Henry County High School gym.
Simon Kenton, which won the KHSAA Sweet 16 state tournament in 1981 when it was a Ninth Region school, got 32 points from Taylor Morrison, who hit seven 3-pointers, in its 76-69 win over Shelby County.
But the Pioneers saw a 20-point lead dwindle to one point with 45.5 seconds to play before claiming a victory. It was a battle between two former state titlists, as Shelby County won the coveted crown in 1966 and 1978.
Oldham County, which won the regional in 2011 and 2012, was in a battle, leading only 57-52 before going to a full-court press. The strategy worked for a 9-0 spurt that raised the Colonels’ lead to 66-52 with 2:40 to play.
A steal off the press and a layup — both by Clayton Wirth — put Oldham County up 62-52. A few seconds later, Wirth hit two free throws for a 64-52 margin.
Colonels coach Coy Zerhusen wasn’t surprised Henry County (20-11) gave his team a tough game.
“Henry County has a bunch of seniors and we have some players who have never played in a regional before,” he said. “We wore them down a little in the second half. The press is a part of our go-to defense, and that’s when we wore them down.”
Eighty-one free throws were shot in the game, with Oldham County making 19 of 38 and Henry County 27 of 43.
Highest among 10 scorers for Henry County was 6-foot-6 senior Austin Young with 13 points.
* After trailing by 20 at 65-45, Shelby County went on two 11-0 runs in the fourth quarter, capped by a layup by Kyler Dugle with 0:45.5 left. Fouled on the play, Dugle hit the free throw to cut the Pioneers’ lead to 70-69. Simon Kenton 76, Shelby County 69:
Morrison took a pass under the goal from Alex Childers and hit a layup with 0:38 to make it 72-69. Jarger Pracht and Noah Robinson each hit two foul shots after that to clinch matters.
“It was scary because we had a 20-point lead,” Morrison said. “I think our nerves got to us. That’s the best press I’ve seen against us I’ve seen this year.”
Shelby County was assessed three technical fouls in the game – one on coach Jason Couch, one on the Shelby bench and one on Manica. The one on Manica came with 2:18 remaining and Brenan Kuntz made four foul shots, two from a personal foul on Manica. That made it a 70-58 lead, but Shelby County came and nearly pulled off a miracle finish.
Manica, a 5-8 sophomore, scored Shelby County’s last seven points of the first half and was a key factor in the Rockets’ fourth-quarter rally.
“He’s a tough little kid,” Couch said. “The bigger the game, the better he plays.”