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C.J. Penny’s place in Anderson County sports history was cemented on the night of March 10 when he swished a 30-foot shot at the buzzer to send the Bearcats to the state tournament for the first time in 12 years.
Last week, he learned that his career will be crowned as a first-team all-state selection on both the Courier-Journal and Lexington Herald-Leader teams. A senior, Penny is also the first Bearcat so honored in 12 years, when Jonathan Beasley was named to the elite teams.
Madisonville’s Jon Hood, a University of Kentucky signee and the state’s Mr. Basketball, was the leading vote-getter on both teams. Both teams were selected in votes of the state’s basketball coaches.
“The Courier-Journal told me on Thursday, but I found out about the Herald-Leader when my mother showed me the paper today,” Penny said Sunday. “It is a big accomplishment.”
The teams, honored by the state’s two largest daily newspapers, are considered to be the most prestigious of the all-state squads.
Penny admits he had not given the individual honors much thought, preferring to focus on winning the regional championship. “That was a goal we had set when we started practice on October 15,” Penny said.
“We worked four years to get there and I knew eventually it could happen,” Penny said of the all-state honor and characteristically crediting his teammates.
Penny finished his career with 2,101 points, the most on record at Anderson County. His total is a handful ahead of a total given to Jimmy Dan Conner based on his yearly scoring averages. “That is a great feeling to be one of the all-time scorers,” Penny said.
He also had 969 rebounds, but is most proud of the fact that Anderson was 78-31 with a regional championship and two district titles in his four years.
Penny’s coach, Glen Drury, has dubbed Penny “the best passer I have ever coached” on many occasions. Penny averaged better than three assists to go with his 22 point, 11 rebound average. Penny says his individual awards could never have happened without his teammates.
“They contributed a lot,” Penny said. “They kept me going as much as I kept them going.”
Down the stretch of the regional final, Penny used his passing to set up some key baskets by teammate Jacob Russell. “We have been playing together so long that we knew what each other was thinking,” Penny said.
Penny takes great pride in his passing, as well. “I would rather pass to my teammates than force up a bad shot,” he said.
Penny has not decided on his college destination but North Carolina A & T, a Division I team coached by former Louisville star Jerry Eaves, and NAIA power Georgetown College are locked in spirited battle for his services. Penny says a pair of junior colleges, Sinclair and Columbus State, both in Ohio, have also been calling in recent weeks.
A good student at Anderson, Penny is awaiting the results of taking the ACT on April 4.
Friday and Saturday, Penny will be at Campbellsville University, attending tryouts for the Kentucky All-Star team that will be playing a two-game series against Indiana in June.
And about that shot on March 10, Penny says he has watched the various videos a few times.
“About 35,” he laughed.
Anderson County junior Jacob Russell and senior Lindsay Fultz were honorable mention selections on the Courier-Journal all-state team. Russell averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds for the Bearcats this year. He was also an honorable mention all-stater in football, the sport he will likely play in college.
Fultz ended her career as second on the all time scoring list at Anderson. She recently signed to play collegiately at Georgetown College.
E-mail John Herndon at firstname.lastname@example.org.