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It seems strange, but just to get things out of the way, Anderson County is considered a solid favorite over Shelby County when the teams get together on the basketball court Saturday night.
Not that it really matters.
The last three times the rivals have met, the underdog has come out on top.
“Every game is different,” Anderson coach Glen Drury is fond of saying.
Last Jan. 4, Drury made the statement moments after his team had defeated Shelby 60-53 in Shelbyville.
Anderson had come into that one a slight underdog but was in control most of the game. “Every game is different,” Drury said several times.
Two months later, Shelby proved him right, taking the Bearcats to the woodshed in the 30th District championship game at Spencer County. The 73-61 final did not reflect how thoroughly Shelby whipped the Bearcats that night.
Anderson had gone unbeaten against Eighth Region teams and had climbed to the top of the region in the computer rankings that appear in the Lexington Herald-Leader and Courier-Journal.
“Part of that game was that I had four seniors,” says Shelby coach Mike Clark. “That was a big factor.”
Shelby went on to the state semi-finals, but Alex Mathews, Coty Minnis and company graduated.
Now, Shelby does not have a senior on its roster.
Every game is different indeed.
Two years ago, Shelby defeated the Bearcats in the regular season, but it was Anderson that had the last laugh with a 65-60 win in the 30th District championship game.
Conventional wisdom holds that Anderson, now 7-3 against a rugged schedule, should be a solid favorite over a Rocket team that is a very un-Shelby-like 3-4.
“A lot of that is the schedule they play,” Drury said. “They have played a very tough schedule and are getting better.”
Even though Anderson will be favored on its home court – where the 30th District Tournament will also be held – Shelby will present many problems with forward Donovan Johnson, who scored 22 on the Bearcats last January, and guard Boomer Beckley, an incredibly quick 5-foot-7 point guard.
Shooting guard Cache Tomlinson hit many big baskets for Shelby last year and Clark says eighth-grade guard Daryl Hicks has the tools to become the real deal.
“Shelby is very athletic,” Drury said Sunday. “They are as athletic as anyone we will play and they can cause us some problems.”
But Anderson can also give Shelby major problems with the inside firepower of 6-5 C.J. Penny and 6-4 Jacob Russell. Nick Humphries, at 6-7, has also been playing well of late. Shelby’s only experience inside is Nigel Beach, who is also a stellar football player.
The winner will have the inside track on the top seed in the district tournament, but as the last two years have shown, that might not matter.
“It’s a rivalry game, so you never know what to expect,” Drury said.
Except that every game is different.
E-mail John Herndon at firstname.lastname@example.org.