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A season that saw high hopes go south suddenly has the possibility of a happy ending for Anderson County boys' basketball.
The Bearcats host longtime rival Franklin County in the regular-season finale Friday night at 7:30 p.m. Then Anderson looks to begin its second season against Collins, the team ranked at the top of the Eighth Region, in the first round of the 30th District Tournament next Tuesday at Shelby County High School.
Friday, the Bearcats will be saying goodbye to seven seniors who will be playing their last game on Glen Drury Court. All post-season games will be away from home, regardless of how far the Bearcats advance.
Anderson will be hosting Franklin, a team that, like Anderson, has hovered around .500 most of the season. Unlike Anderson, which had won four straight heading into Tuesday's game at Paris, Franklin had lost four of its last six through the weekend.
“I have seen Franklin County and I thought that athletically, they are as good as anybody,” Drury said.
Seniors Chris Roberts (6-foot-2 and 240 pounds) and Lorenzo McCaskell give the Flyers a strong inside game while guard Rylan Rowe, another senior, leads Franklin with 16 points a game.
Collins looms in district
Anderson has had numerous strokes of bad luck during the season, most notably not having everyone available for the crucial 30th District seeding games. As a result, the Bearcats dropped all three and are the lowest-seeded team in the district for the first time ever.
Anderson was the four-seed in the 2011 tournament, but at that time, the district was home to five teams.
Tuesday, the Bearcats have the unenviable task of trying to derail Collins in the first round of the district tournament. A slight pick to win the region in pre-season, Collins has done nothing to change that perception through the year. The Titans stood at 21-3 after beating Harrison County Saturday night and are gunning for their third straight district title.
Collins, which split from Shelby County in the 2010-11 school year, is also hunting for its first Eighth Region title. The Titans have coined the 2014 season “Operation Eighth.”
While Collins' only loss since Dec. 28 came at Louisville Trinity two weeks ago, Anderson has to feel it has a chance at the upset in the opener. Since the Trinity loss, Collins has won three games by a total of six points, including a 3-point win over the same Frankfort team that Anderson routed on Feb. 1.
Collins was to play at Male Tuesday night.
The Titans give Anderson major matchup problems with the athletic Ralphie Stone patrolling the paint and guard Lawson Page providing the same kind of leadership exhibited as quarterback during the school's run to the football state championship.
Collins has talent, athleticism, depth and a team chemistry that has many saying this is the strongest Collins team yet.
But Anderson also knows it has been playing well of late.
“Winning takes care of itself,” Drury said. “I am glad that our team is feeling good about what we are doing.”
The Bearcats were impressive in a win over Owen County last week, their fourth straight. But as Owen coach Devin Duvall noted, the biggest thing is that Anderson is finally healthy and together.
“They are at full strength now,” Duvall said. “That should be a whale of a district tournament.”
Playing so many games short-handed, Anderson sports a rather pedestrian 11-8 record. But with all players present, the Bearcats are 10-3, with two of the three losses coming early in the season before football players had been able to practice more than a handful of days.
So, for all practical purposes, Anderson is 10-1 when at full strength, making the Bearcats a very dangerous fourth-seeded team.
“I think we have had a tough schedule,” Drury said. “I never anticipated going 0-3 in seeding games, I never anticipated not having everybody in all of the seed games. I did anticipate we would be playing Shelby County or Collins in the first round.”
And Drury is quick to remind that he knew his team would be a work in progress.
“I did say this would be a February team,” he said. “We have started to play much better because we are finally understanding that our defense is important to our success.”
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