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BOYS' REGIONAL BASKETBALL: Bearcats escape with win over Owen

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Regional victory is Anderson's first since 2009

By John Herndon

NEW CASTLE – It all came down to one defensive stop.

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Ross Cox made it and Christian Estes sank two free throws with 2.2 seconds left to give Anderson County a 50-47 win over Owen County in a heart-stopper in the first round of the Eighth Region Tournament Monday night.

After Anderson's Jay Smith missed the front end of the bonus with 19 seconds to play and the Bearcats clinging to a 48-47 lead, everyone in the field house at Henry County High School knew Owen would look for Carson Williams, the mega-talented 6-foot-6 freshman who would lead all scorers with 16 points.

Williams got the ball on the right side of the lane, made several moves then released the shot. Cox stood his ground. There was bumping, but no call. Williams' shot fell harmlessly off the rim.

After Anderson grabbed the rebound, Estes set the final score and set off a wild celebration when Zach Ripy's desperation 3-point attempt fell well off the mark.

“It was just a great game,” said Anderson coach Glen Drury. “Owen County answered the bell when they had to and came back to make it a great game.”

Indeed. When it looked as if Anderson was about to run away with things, building a nine-point lead on two occasions, Owen rallied.

The Rebels even took the lead twice in the fourth quarter but Anderson willed its way to its first regional tournament win since 2009, when the Bearcats advanced to the Sweet 16. It also ended Owen's run of four straight years in the regional semi-finals.

After Owen went up 42-40 early in the fourth quarter, Anderson's Jay Smith hit two technical foul shots to knot things back up with 5:13 to play.

The teams traded scores until it was 46-all following Williams' layin with 2:04 to go.

On Anderson's next possession, Cox lobbed a pass to Mann, who laid it in. It turned out to be the decisive basket.

“That pass was perfect,” Drury said. “Cox threw it exactly the way we practiced it and that play was picture perfect. You couldn't have asked for anything better.”

However, Owen's Zach Ripy hit the first of two foul shots with 24 seconds to gom setting up the dramatic final seconds. Ripy, a senior guard, finished with 11 points in his final high school game.

“He was tremendous for them,” Drury said. “They got it into a half-court game and he dissected our 2-3 zone in the second half when we were trying to do anything we could to keep the ball from Williams and (Justin) Shelton.”

Anderson appeared to be in command when it ended the first quarter with a 15-1 run to take a 17-8 lead after a quarter. The Bearcats looked to be floundering, though, leading 20-17 when they converted a rare 5-point play. Austin Cummins, who scored 12 points, swished a three and Estes was fouled while going for rebounding position. He hit both free throws.

The Bearcats appeared to be in good shape with a 27-19 halftime lead but Owen dominated the third quarter to make things an eight-game season.

“I can't say enough about our kids,” Drury said. “They made the plays down the stretch and Jay Smith refused to lose.”

Anderson will now play Oldham County, a 61-44 winner over Grant County, in Friday's semi-final. “I have seen Oldham,” Drury said. “We have a big game on our hands and we are going to have to play. Oldham's defense is great.

But the Bearcats will show up. “We will have our hands full,” Drury said, “but we will be playing in March. We have a chance.”

 

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