Another close one goes against Bearcats

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By John Herndon

Experience is nearly always the best teacher, but it is sometimes cruel.

“I am fine,” Anderson County boys’ basketball coach Glen Drury said Friday after his team dropped a 62-55 decision to visiting South Oldham. “I am fine, but I might not have been when I first started coaching.”

He’s learned that things happen. He believes that a team can fight through and get better or it can pack things in and start getting ready for the summer.

Drury saw his team continue to get better against a team that many feel could be the best in the Eighth Region. The Bearcats shot 45 percent from the field, a major improvement. They held their own on the backboards, holding a 31-22 rebounding advantage, according to Anderson statistics.

Yet, for the seventh time in eight games, the Bearcats tasted defeat. This time the margin was slightly higher than the three-point average in the other contests, but it was a heartbreaker nonetheless.

South Oldham broke a 48-all tie when senior Carson Fields sank a jump shot with 4:25 to play. The Dragons never trailed again. With Anderson frantically trying to make up a 54-51 deficit inside the final 75 seconds, South Oldham guard Dillon Bullock scored his only four points of the night. Bullock hit a pair of free throws at the 1:12 mark, then converted a steal into a basket that effectively sealed South Oldham’s 15th win in 19 games.

“I just really feel for our kids,” said Drury, whose team fell to 6-11. “They are trying so hard and can’t get over the hump.”

South Oldham, which was a heavy favorite in the popular computer rankings, picked up only its second win at Anderson in Coach Steve Simpson’s 11 years at the helm. “I knew this game would be hard,” Simpson said. “We told the kids that Anderson had played a tough schedule and there is no backing down from them. When you play Anderson County, you are going to have to fight for everything you get.

“That team plays HARD. You can’t simulate how hard they play in practice.”

The expected romp never materialized, even though South Oldham overcame a scoreless five-minute start to lead 11-3 after a quarter. Yet Anderson somehow found a way to knot the count at 19 when Logan Woodside, who led Anderson with 18 points, completed a three-point play.

Things were tied at 22 at halftime and 38 after three quarters. Anderson opened its biggest lead of the night midway through the third when Zack Peach nailed a 3-pointer to make it 34-30. The lead changed hands four times in the third frame and it was not until South Oldham’s final push that either team had control.

“We thought we could get some (inside) baskets on them in the second half,” Simpson said. Fields, who led all scorers with 22, put the Dragons ahead to stay at 50-48, then converted a steal to push the lead to four.

After Woodside sank a pair of free throws, Jack Sherry’s rebound put South Oldham up 54-50 with 2:31 remaining. After Anderson’s Erik Newton sank a free throw, Ethan Kelly gave the Bearcats a chance to tie when he knocked the ball away from Bullock, then as in a football scramble, fell on the ball for a jump ball.

With the possession arrow pointing the Bearcats’ way, Anderson tried to get a three to go down but Darrin Laswell’s game-tying shot fell off the mark, setting the stage for Bullock to close things out.

“South Oldham is one of the best teams we have played this year,” Drury said. “Our defense was really good in the second and third quarter. Our pressure bothered them and took them out of what they wanted to do, but we were not able to come up with the stops when we needed them in the fourth quarter.

“You have got to have the defensive stops. Part of that was fatigue, but give South Oldham credit. They utilized their size well.”

But Drury said his team somehow continues to battle.

“Anytime you are going through a stretch like we have, you can become mentally tired. This team needs to get a break. They work so hard and eventually it will pay off. They deserve for some good things to happen.”