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LEXINGTON – This James Bond was not a 007, but he was enough for Harlan County last Thursday night.
Bond got his golden fingers on a loose ball, then, just as his more famous counterpart, found a view to a kill – in the form of an open lane to the basket – Anderson County’s hope of an improbable championship in the Sayre Holiday Classic.
Bond, a sophomore, only scored 006 points but his layup with 006 seconds left in overtime was the difference as Harlan County defeated Anderson 61-60 in what turned out to be the championship game of the round-robin affair.
Both teams had 2-1 records in the tournament, but Harlan won the title on the basis of its win over Anderson.
Bond got behind Anderson’s Spencer Ruggles after getting a loose ball, then drove practically uncontested for the layup that improved the Black Bears’ record to 10-3. Anderson fell to 5-5.
“On the last play, we got no (defensive) rotation,” Anderson coach Glen Drury said. “It was a loose ball situation and we did not get to the ball, but we can learn from this.”
There were many things the Bearcats could learn from a finish that erased a ferocious comeback. Anderson had trailed 44-29 with 1:22 left in the third quarter and would be playing without Darrin Laswell, one of the team’s better 3-point shooting threats. Laswell fouled out in the third quarter.
But after Ruggles ended the third quarter and began the fourth with power baskets in the lane and the Bearcat press started forcing turnovers in bunches, Anderson went ahead at 51-50 with 2:40 to play. Harlan County answered, however, by hitting four straight free throws in the final minute to make it 54-51. The Black Bears sank 27 of 33 foul shots on the night for the difference in the game.
Anderson’s Erik Newton nailed a 3-pointer to send things to overtime, but Anderson could not close the deal in the extra four minutes. Newton finished with 14 points.
Logan Woodside, who led Anderson with 15 points, scored all six of Anderson’s points in the overtime, but as a team, the Bearcats hit just 3-of-6 free throws and had the ball with a 60-59 lead after Harlan County’ Zack Chitwood got free for a layup with 18 seconds remaining.
After a Harlan timeout, though, Anderson threw the ball away on the inbounds pass, giving the Bears the ball under their own basket. “We didn’t execute what we have practiced in games,” Drury explained. “We were out of our spots and we have got to learn to come meet the pass instead of letting it come to us.”
Harlan County, a sophomore-laden team, made the Bearcats pay for the error with Bond’s game-winner. Anderson got a timeout with 4.5 seconds to play with Drury telling Newton, his best free throw shooter, to drive as far as he could to the basket in the hope of getting fouled.
Harlan County, however, forced him to pass to Seth Carmichael, whose shot was blocked by Chad Massingill as time expired. Massingill led Harlan County with 17 points.
In reality, the contest was far more than the final 9:22. If anything, it was a microcosm of an up-and-down season in which Anderson is undergoing a major renovation necessitated by heavy graduation losses in 2009 and 2010.
Anderson started and finished hot, but the in-between cost the Bearcats dearly. The Bearcats raced to a 19-10 lead inside the first five minutes as Laswell unleashed a trio of 3-pointers, but by halftime, they were on the wrong end of a 30-25 score.
Anderson had gone more than eight minutes without scoring until Zack Peach ended the drought with his own three with 3:06 to play before halftime. Anderson scored only six points in the second and third quarters, allowing Harlan County to build the big lead.
“Some of the shots we were making early weren’t going in,” Drury said. “A lot of that is because we were not going inside first, then kicking it back out. We are undersized, but our inside people have to get the ball more.
“We have got to learn from this. We are developing depth and we are getting better.”
Anderson Co. 44, Somerset 39
A night after a rousing win over the host Sayre team, the Bearcats nearly suffered an upset against one of the few teams they will be solid favorites against all season.
Anderson overcame a 31-26 deficit going into the fourth quarter to defeat Somerset 44-39 last Wednesday. Somerset, which had already matched its win total of last season – four – just before Christmas, took advantage of Anderson mistakes to build the lead.
“We weren’t as sharp as this club has to be in order to be successful,” Drury said. Anderson recovered, however, and won the game at the free throw line, hitting 7-of-8 in the fourth quarter for its third straight win. Laswell led Anderson with 16 points. Clayton Stringer paced Somerset, which came back to beat Sayre the next night to take third place in the tourney, with 12 points.