One last go-round for district supremacy

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Shelby County stands in Lady Cats’ way for district’s top seed

By John Herndon

Somebody forgot to tell Shelby County’s girls’ basketball team that it was not supposed to be very good this year.

Or if someone did tell them, the Lady Rockets did not listen.

“They are playing as well or better than any one in the (Eighth) Region,” says Anderson County coach Tony Kays.

And Kays and his extremely young Lady Bearcats will find out just how well that is Friday night, Dec. 18, when the teams square off in the game that will likely determine the top seed in the 30th District Tournament. Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. at Shelby County High School.

Even the casual follower of girls’ basketball understood that the final year of Shelby County, as we know it, was supposed to be forgettable. The Lady Rockets were eliminated in the district tourament for the first time ever last spring and ultra-successful coach Sally Zimmerman stepped down to become the school’s athletic director.

Zimmerman’s assistant, Phillip Conder took over the program and has the Lady Rockets believing they can contend for top honors in the Eighth, even though their 1-3 record might not indicate that. “I saw them defeat (pre-season regional favorite) South Oldham and take Butler to the wire,” Kays said.

Shelby also dropped games to Carroll County and Rockcastle County, which blitzed Shelby on Saturday.

“I think they are starting to gain confidence in Coach Conder’s system,” Kays said. “They seem to playing with a lot of emotion and I’m sure they will not want to lose to Anderson County, especially being the last regular-season game before the school splits.”

Kays is referring to the division of Shelby County into two schools, with the new Martha Layne Collins High School scheduled to open on the west side of Shelbyville next fall.

But for now, Shelby is a mixture of veterans and youth. Senior guards Taylor Shaw and Dee Dee Davis are the unquestioned leaders, while freshman Aaliyah Wells has been labeled a future star. The Lady Rockets have overcome the loss of senior Hannah Stucker, out for the season with a knee injury, very well.

“Wells is really playing well, no pun intended,” Kays said. “She is playing with a lot of confidence in all phases. She is hitting her outside shots, driving , posting up and defending at a very high level.”

Shaw and Davis are deadly from long range and guard Marissa Raisor is much improved. Shayla Bolin is effective in the paint.

The key is that Shelby has three seniors and a junior in the lineup.

Still, Anderson was ranked higher than Shelby in the pre-season, whether it was warranted or not. The Lady Bearcats are very young but showed the coolness of veterans alongside the spunk of youth in wins over Ballard and Lafayette.

Anderson should have an advantage inside with 6-foor-1 sophomore Sydney Brown. Anderson will undoubtedly try to get the ball to her on the low post.

Another interesting matchup will surely be Anderson eighth-grader Eriel McKee and Wells as they will likely face off in many one-on-one situations. They are widely considered the region’s top rising stars.

But the outcome will likely turn on Anderson’s perimeter defense.

“The keys to the game will include limiting the threes from Shaw and Davis and keeping them off the charity stripe,” Kays said. “They shoot them extremely well and have made a living there the last two games.”

E-mail John Herndon at jpherndon@theandersonnews.com.