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Remember the days when the Anderson County-Shelby County basketball game was one of those must-see events?
It really has been only four years since that night when C.J. Penny buried a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send Anderson, not the arch-rival Rockets, to the Sweet 16.
For years, those emotion-packed contests were the norm, not the exception but things changed when Shelby was split to form Collins High in the fall of 2010.
While neither Anderson nor Shelby is expected to make a run for the Sweet 16 in March, the stakes when they meet Tuesday night will still be high. Tipoff is set for 8 p.m. at the Anderson gym.
“It will be a war,” Anderson coach Glen Drury says. “Shelby County is much improved and will be very well-coached.”
The Rockets, who finished just 6-25 a year ago, made quite a splash over the summer when they hired the highly-successful Jason Couch away from Louisville Eastern, where he had been for nine years. Long considered one of the young coaching stars statewide, Couch gave a downtrodden Rocket program an instant boost.
Things have not been rosy in the beginning, however, as Shelby dropped its first two games of the season.
“Daniel (Drury, Anderson's junior varsity coach) saw them against South Oldham and they were in the game against South,” Drury said. South Oldham pulled away late for a 73-55 win that did not indicate how close the game actually was.
In their second outing, however, Shelby took a 87-66 whipping from Louisville Collegiate.
The winner of Tuesday's game will get a leg up in the district seeding race, but Drury said in spite of Shelby's struggles since the Collins split, it will not be easy. He undoubtedly remembers what happened two years ago when the Rockets defeated Anderson on a last-second shot by Eric Schreiner.
A big-time shooter, Schreiner graduated last spring, and the Rockets lost guard Bryan Wallace, who transferred to Montgomery County, but Drury says Shelby still has some firepower.
Senior Michael Barry and junior Kipp Moore are expected to lead the Rockets' attack. Both scored 15 points against Collegiate.
“They will be bringing everything they've got,” Drury said. “We will have to play well to win this one.”
Before the Bearcats take on Shelby, they will travel to Garrard County Friday night, Dec. 7.
Most printed schedules have the game listed to be played on Thursday, but the time has been recently changed.
Garrard, which went 12-18 last year, will be playing for its third coach in three years, former Russellville coach Dennis Pardue. Another Eighth Region team, Grant County, ripped the Golden Lions, 78-57, in the season opener.
“We saw Garrard in a scrimmage against Nelson County,” Drury said. “They will be a nice test for us on the road.”
The Lions boast one of the 12th Region's better players in 6-foot-3 guard Austin Sebastian, who scored 15 points a game last year. “He is really good,” Drury said.
Drury said Garrard senior Billy Abney, who Anderson fans might remember from his days as quarterback on the Garrard football team, is also a nice player.
“Every kid they have can shoot the ball,” Drury said. “That makes them dangerous.”