COLUMN: First half of season has brought no surprises for Anderson basketball

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By John Herndon

It seems strange to be already talking about the mid-point of the basketball season, but that is about where we are this first full week of the year.


The high school district tournaments get underway across Kentucky on Feb. 24, meaning this is the sixth week in a 12-week season. You do the math.

At Anderson County, there were high expectations when the season opened the first week of December. The first month of the season indicated that those expectations were warranted and still are. But there have also been some doses of reality served to the Anderson teams.

First, look at the Anderson girls' team. The Lady Bearcats were a near-unanimous pick as the state's top team when the season began. That was about as predictable as saying it would get cold in January.

Anderson had nearly everybody back from a state semi-finalist team that went 34-2 and boasted a pair of Division I players in Eriel McKee and Makenzie Cann. No other team in Kentucky could make those claims.

But this is 2014, a year with more state championship contenders than most in recent years. The Lady Bearcats could very well present the school with its first state championship in any KHSAA-sanctioned sport. They are good. Very good. Maybe even great in my vocabulary where the term is rarely applied to a team.

At 11-2, the Lady Bearcats are probably about where they should be. Fans wanted 13-0, but the schedule was brutal in December and it was a time of experimentation. It was probaby unrealistic to think Anderson would go unbeaten, especially seeing that Columbus (Ind.) North, a national Top 25 team at times, was on the schedule. But it was fun to contemplate.

From this corner, the Lady Bearcats have done nothing to diminish the high hopes. They have beaten regional favorites Allen County-Scottsville and Owensboro Catholic handily. They ripped LaRue County, another Top 10 team at the time, to shreds. Even the lone loss to a Kentucky team, Elizabethtown, came on a night when Anderson suddenly went cold in the final five minutes.

But E-town also underlined that the Lady Bearcats have little inside presence. It is not necessarily a bad thing because Anderson can create more mismatches than most opponents.

Conventional wisdom says the key to Anderson's season is how well the Lady Bearcats shoot from the outside. That makes sense because when the Lady Bearcats get on a roll and are heating it up from the three-point line, there is probably no team in Kentucky that can beat them.

But outside shooting can come and go. It is a given that Anderson has some great shooters, but they are human beings. That means there will be nights when the goal looks like the ocean and other nights when it looks like the eye of a needle. That is just how it is and if anyone knew exactly why, he would never have to work another day in his life.

It says here, though, the keys to Anderson's state championship hopes are staying healthy and staying hungry. Anderson has not had a major injury so far and for the most part, the Lady Bearcats have been ready to devour whoever is next in their path. However, there have been some games where they allowed a team to hang around a little long for comfort.

Overall, though, the Anderson girls are doing just fine. If you have not seen them in action, you are the one missing out. Suffice it to say this is not the girls' basketball of turnovers and jump balls like we saw 25 years ago. These ladies can play hoops.

While even getting back to the state tournament is not a given – regional foe Simon Kenton was ranked No. 7 in the Rating the State Monday – this Anderson team just has a confident air about it that says playing in the final game of the Kentucky high school basketball season is as much a possibility today as it was two months ago.

On the boys' side of the ledger, the Bearcats got some pre-season support as the Eighth Region's best team. That, however, was more of a reflection on the region than it was of the Bearcats.

The current Anderson team is kind of an enigma. The Bearcats have shown a ton of potential but have been very inconsistent.

There have been some solid wins, like East Ridge and Estill County, but no signature victory. That is partly the result of a schedule that was set up for December development, though. There have also been some puzzling losses, most notably a thrashing from a Wolfe County just two weeks after the same teams played down to the wire.

Anderson has shown some good things, and like the Lady Bearcats, when the Bearcats are shooting well, they are very tough to beat. But there is little size and a team with a strong inside game could really give Anderson fits.

However, this is not 2009, when Anderson and Shelby County were not only atop the Eighth Region all season but were also two of the state's best teams. It is a year when the region is wide open and no one has moved to the point of being a prohibitive favorite.

It says here the keys to the Bearcats' season will be defense, depth and development. Right now, Anderson is probably little more than a darkhorse regional contender. But over the next six weeks, that could change.

What is certain is that 2014 should be an interesting year for Anderson County basketball.


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