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Anderson County overcame a sluggish start to defeat 30th District rival Shelby County, 46-42 in a grind-it-out affair Saturday night at the Anderson gym.
The teams have been ranked as the top two in the Eighth Region.
Trailing 21-20 at halftime, Anderson took the lead for good when C.J. Penny came up with a steal and a dunk a minute into the second half. The Bearcats extended the lead to eight before Shelby fought back. The Rockets got within 38-37, but Jacob Russell converted a Penny pass into a layup, then, after Penny blocked a Nigel Beach shot, Allen Warford drove for a layup that made it 42-37.
Russell, who led Anderson with 18 points, hit two free throws with 1:46 to play, then with the Bearcats clinging to a 44-42 lead and Shelby desperately trying to foul, Penny sank both ends of the bonus with 4.6 seconds to play.
Anderson had just three second half turnovers after throwing the ball away 11 times in the first half.
Penny scored 15 points and pulled down eight rebounds, the same number as Russell. Junior Donovan Johnson led all scorers with 20 points.
The victory puts Anderson, now 8-3, in the driver's seat for the top seed at the 30th District tournament, to be held at Anderson Feb. 23-27. Shelby had a 5-game winning streak snapped and fell to 6-5.
“Anytime you beat a team as good as Shelby County, you have to be happy,” said Anderson coach Glen Drury. “They are the most athletic team in the region. We need to cherish this game.”
For a complete look at the Bearcat-Rocket match-up, see the Jan. 7 edition of The Anderson News.