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It wasn't a beauty contest. Far from it.
That was good for Anderson County as the Bearcats rolled to a 71-50 win over visiting Washington County in the Bearcats' season opener.
Anderson ran off the first 10 points and never trailed but made things harder than necessary.
“We were definitely inconsistent,” Anderson coach Glen Drury said. “I had seen that in practice.”
Washington had pulled within 23-22 two minutes before halftime, but the Bearcats reeled off the final eight points of the half – six by Jay Smith – and were never seriously threatened again.
Smith saw to that, putting together a night that was worthy of his status as one of the Eighth Region's best players. Smith scored a career-high 30 points, hitting 9-of-17 shots from the field and sinking all but one of his 10 free throws. Smith also pulled down eight rebounds and dished out five assists.
“I know he is capable of that,” Drury said of his senior guard. “There were times in the game when he carried us, but Jay is going to have to have some help.
“We can't ask him to play any better than he did tonight.”
After Washington had sliced the lead to one, Anderson's Christian Estes sank a pair of free throws before Smith did the same, then split two Washington defenders for a layup. He finished the spurt with a short jumper just before halftime to make it 31-22.
Washington, now 0-2, was never closer than seven points the rest of the way.
Still, the Bearcats were unable to shake the Commanders until a 12-2 run spanning the end of the third and start of the fourth quarters.
“Part of that was our inconsistency,” Drury said, “but I want to credit Washington County. They play hard. They play as hard as anybody we will play and this is one of the better teams they have had.
“We got up on them early, but they settled down and when they got into the bonus and started making foul shots, they did well.”
Smith – who else – started the decisive run when, after missing two shots, he slipped between two Washington rebounders to come up with a loose ball under the basket, then flipped to Kyle Sutherland for an open layup.
Washington coach Russell Burkhead immediately called time.
But it did not matter.
The smallish Bearcats, with no starter over 6-foot-3, dominated the backboards against one of the few teams they will have a size advantage over all season. Anderson won the rebounding battle 37-17 as Austin Linzy pulled down 12, the best night of his varsity career.
Anderson also took advantage of Washington's mounting frustration. Burkhead and Washington player Morgan Churchill were both slapped with technical fouls while player Evan Burkhead was also called for an intentional foul against Smith early in the fourth quarter.
Between the teams, 47 fouls were called.
“After the game, I told the kids I was proud of them that they didn't lose their poise when Washington County made its run,” Drury said. “We have a lot of work to do. We have some kids who played football and have not been here (for basketball practice) enough.
“We are going to be better.”
The Anderson junior varsity rolled to a 66-31 win in the preliminary game. Austin Cummins led Anderson with 25 points.
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