- Special Sections
- Public Notices
If there is any doubt concerning just how big Anderson County's game at Shelby County is Friday night, one just needs to look in the stands whenever the Bearcats or Rockets play.
Nearly every time Anderson County has taken the floor this season, Shelby head coach Mike Clark or his assistant, Greg Lawson, has been in attendance, taking notes on the Bearcats.
The Bearcats travel to Shelby on Friday, Jan. 4. Game time is 6 p.m.
When the new season ticket holders are mentioned to Anderson coach Glen Drury, he can only smile. "We've had someone at every Shelby game except one," he said before the Bearcats played in last week's King of the Bluegrass tournament.
While the Bearcats' commitment to that classic limited the Bearcat coaching staff's opportunities to see Shelby last week, Clark was in attendance at the Bearcats' game with Manual on Thursday at Fairdale High School.
People can talk about it being just one game on the schedule, maybe even with a straight face, but there is no question that this one is the biggest regular season game for either team. It goes much deeper than the fact that the schools have had a long-standing rivalry and the counties are separated by a thin surveyor's line that runs for several miles near the communities of Birdie and Harrisonville.
To the winner goes the top seed (and a likely game with Eminence) in the opening round of the 30th District Tournament, if everything else goes as it should. The loser likely will have a date playing a dangerous Spencer County team on Spencer's home court in an elimination game.
Anderson coach Glen Drury tries to downplay that factor a bit, noting, "To get the top seed, you will have to win all your district games," he says, but adds, "It would be a huge step to the No.1 (seed) for the winner."
With the Bearcats and Rockets both considered legitimate threats to win the Eighth Region in March, the seedings could be a major factor.
Last January, Shelby defeated Anderson on the Bearcats' home court, but two months later, the Bearcats pulled what many considered to be a major upset when they beat Shelby 65-60 in the district championship game on Shelby's home court. It was the first time Shelby had lost a postseason game on its home court in at least 40 years.
Conventional wisdom would have Shelby using that game as motivation, but Clark says that is not the case, "Not really. We know Anderson is a good team, and we expect a very good game."
Drury counters that Shelby, 8-0 after Thursday's games, needs little motivation. "Right now, they are playing as well as anyone in the region. They are very athletic and give us some match-up problems."
Forward Coty Minnis is considered one of the top players in the Eighth Region and another forward, Alex Matthews, was an all-state football selection and has drawn the interest of several Division I schools.
However, Shelby might have as many problems trying to contain the region's top player, Anderson's C.J. Penny, and sophomore Jacob Russell, who has been playing very well lately.
Some might see the game as a matchup of Shelby's long tradition. The Rockets have two state championship trophies, have had two Mr. Basketballs and many major college players.
While not nearly as illustrious as Shelby's, Anderson has some tradition as well and is the defending district champ. However, none of those factors will mean much when the game tips off.
Drury says, "This game will be decided by the kids on the floor."