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Different lineup but same result

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Lady Bearcats rally to beat district rival

By John Herndon

And you thought the only place where things were only different this basketball season in Shelby County.

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While most are aware that Collins High School is part of the split of what used to be Shelby County, not many expected Anderson County to go into its game with the perceived threat to 30th District supremacy with a makeshift lineup. In the end, however, it really did not matter.

The Lady Bearcats rallied from an early deficit to defeat the visitors 56-49 on Saturday afternoon. That Anderson triumph was not unexpected. To do it without one of the team's best players was not in the script.

Freshman Eriel McKee, Anderson's most athletic player and third-leading scorer on the season, went down with a knee injury the night before against Eminence.

While McKee dressed Saturday and went through pregame warm-ups, she never entered the lineup. Still, the Lady Bearcats found a way to clinch the top seed in the 30th District Tournament to be played next month.

But it was not without some tense moments. Collins raced to a 15-5 lead after the  first quarter, taking advantage of Anderson's inability to click offensively and sophomore Aaliyah Wells exposing the Lady Bearcats' lack of defense.

“We were a little bit different at the start of the game,” Anderson coach Tony Kays said. “We had a different combination and our defense wasn't there to open the game. We missed McKee defensively. We couldn't guard Wells and we were making some turnovers offensively. 

“You have to give Collins a lot of credit. They came ready to play.”

The Lady Bearcats, however, woke up and recognized the huge inside advantage they had with Sydney Brown, who led Anderson with 16 points.

Mackenzie Cann jump-started the Lady Bearcats with a 3-pointer seven seconds into the second quarter, then Brown, who had given up her starting job the night before, became the major force.

With Wells on the bench with two fouls, Brown, a 6-foot-1 junior, dominated inside. Her basket off a perfectly executed pick-and-roll with Mackenzie Cann gave the Lady Bearcats their first lead at 21-19.

They never relinquished it.

Brown, named one of the Eighth Region's Top 10 players prior to the season, handled her demotion well, according to Kays. “She has been real positive about it,” he said.

Anderson also made other changes.

“Our assistant coaches made some defensive adjustments (at the first quarter break),” Kays said. “That picked us up a little bit.”

Anderson erased the deficit in just over three minutes and taking the lead for good in less than five. By halftime, the Lady Bearcats had opened a 30-22 lead.

Anderson extended its lead to as many as 12 points in the third quarter, but a 10-0 run got Collins within 38-36 before Brown got free for a layup and Cann sank two free throws to give Anderson some breathing room. The Titans were never closer.

“We had some turnovers in that stretch and missed some shots to give them some opportunities,” Kays said of Collins' run. “That just happens. I was proud of how the kids responded then.”

While Cann scored 13 points, the Lady Bearcats got big games from guards Corrin Robinson and Destiny Stewart. Robinson, an eighth-grader, tallied a varsity career-high 15 points – Robinson  sank a trio of 3-pointers – and drew the defensive assignment of slowing Collins' Leeara Cardwell, who hurt Anderson while playing for Shelby County last year.

“If Corrin made a mistake, she always came back and made a big play,” Kays said. “She did a great job on Cardwell.”

Stewart scored eight points, but her three-point play gave Anderson its first lead at 18-17 then had a big 3-pointer in the fourth quarter that put Anderson up 52-41 and effectively sealed the win midway through the fourth frame. “They backed off her to stop everybody else and she just stepped up and knocked that one down,” Kays said with a big smile.

It is a matter of growing up and accepting roles.

Anderson might be a slightly different team than expected in November, but the end result was the same.

“We got nice games from a lot of people,” said Kays, who seemed relaxed as he talked about his team's penchant for a slow start and not quite closing the door when it should be. “We are growing into our roles,” he said.

“There is a lot of unselfishness on this team. There are no 'I's' or 'me.'  They like each other and want to play for each other. I feel this team is growing together. This group is very competitive. They don't like losing.”

 

Lady Bearcats win JV game

Alex Avritt converted a 3-point play with 10 seconds to play to lift Anderson County to a 34-32 win over Collins in the preliminary game.  Brown led Anderson with 12 points.