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The calendar says January but the atmosphere should blare March when Anderson County hosts Oldham County in a high school basketball double-header Friday night, Jan. 11.
It should be a night when either the boys' or girls' contest could serve as the marquee game. The girls' teams tip off at 6 p.m. with the boys going at approximately 7:45.
The Bearcats, now 7-3, whipped Oldham 65-53 on Dec. 27 in the King of the Bluegrass tournament at Fairdale High School. That night, Anderson shot nearly 68 percent from the field, including 7-for-9 from 3-point range.
Anderson coach Glen Drury says that game is history. "This could be a totally different game," he says. "I am sure they will try to contain the 3-pointer better this time.
"We will have to do a much better job of containing (Billie) Payne."
Payne, a muscular 6-foot-2 forward, scored 22 points on the Bearcats two weeks ago.
Oldham coach Gary Forrest, who has won five Eighth Region championships and over 400 games in his tenure at Buckner, might be more concerned with finding a way to get his team to snap out of a recent funk than simply turning the tables on Anderson. Saturday, the Colonels lost at cross-county rival South Oldham, 85-64, extending the Colonels' losing streak to three games and four of their last five. The Colonels' record now stands at 7-5.
Oldham still has plenty of talent, though. In addition to Payne, guard Erik Dunlap is considered by many to be the best backcourt player in the Eighth.
Dunlap reportedly had a dynamite game at South Oldham, utilizing his skills both as a penetrator and outside shooter. He scored 22 points Saturday, but the Colonels did not the the ball to Payne and are also looking for other players to fill some roles.
While Friday's game is primarily for pride, Drury says it is an important one for his team after breaking Oldham's dominance two weeks ago.
"We have come so close to them so many times," Drury says of some memorable battles, such as last season's 38-32 epic in the Eighth Region tournament. "They put us out last year."
The girls' teams will tangle at 6 p.m. Oldham might have established itself as the region's best team in the early going but suffered a 42-30 whipping at South Oldham on Saturday night to fall to 9-5.
The Lady Colonels shot just 31.6 percent from the field and had the same rate from the free throw line. Oldham defeated Anderson last year and returns a big front line that includes 6-foot-3 Tara Huckvale and 6-footer Lindsey Melton. Point guard Audrie Beaudrie is also playing well for the Lady Colonels.
"She hurt us bad last year," recalls Anderson coach Tony Kays. "Their zone really gave us some problems."
Anderson, which had won 10 of its last 11 before Friday's loss at Shelby County, will try to restore that confidence with a victory Friday night.
The Lady Bearcats, now 11-4, feel center Courtney Milam can give Oldham's taller players trouble with her quickness and will look to rely on a balanced attack to get back on the winning trail.
"It will be a good test for us," Kays said.
The Lady Bearcats travel to Mercer County Monday, Jan. 14. The Lady Titans stood at 6-6 through games of the weekend but were in the midst of a 4-game losing streak. The teams have two common opponents. Anderson beat Washington County by 8 points on Dec. 17 but Mercer has a pair of double-digit wins over Washington.
Mercer dropped a 6-point decision to Somerset Friday. Anderson had beaten Somerset by 13 points a week earlier. The first Litkenhous ratings, released Friday, list Anderson as a slight favorite.
The Bearcats host Eminence in a 30th District seeding game Tuesday, Jan. 15. The Warriors have been pesky over the years but have fallen on hard times, going 1-7 through the weekend, with the lone victory coming over the Kentucky School for the Deaf.