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A visitor might need to overlook the absence of paint on the wall in the Anderson County boys' basketball locker room for a while.
Bearcat coach Glen Drury might have peeled off at least two coats at halftime Friday as his team was looking at the wrong end of a 24-15 count against longtime rival Woodford County.
"It wasn't pretty," senior Ryan Wells said of the lecture. "It wasn't pretty at all."
With a wry smile etching across his face, Drury agreed with one of his captains. "No, not pretty," he said. "It wasn't pretty."
Neither was a first half that saw Anderson hit just 6 of 27 shots, repeatedly turn the ball over and have the offensive movement of a frozen statue. One could not be blamed for thinking that the Bearcats were about to lose their first game at home this season and that Woodford would claim its first win on the Bearcats' home floor since 1986 when the Yellow Jackets made the state tournament.
But headed by a ferocious defensive presence, Anderson took the lead within 6 minutes of the second half, then powered its way to a 49-37 win. Anderson claimed its 10th victory in 11 games and improved to 15-4 on the year. Woodford dropped to 16-8.
"We weren't focused," Wells said.
"We came out sluggish," added junior C.J. Penny, who had game highs of 14 points and 16 rebounds. "Coach told us we had to come out and pick it up in the second half."
"We deserved what we got in the first half," Drury said. "Woodford County outplayed us throught the first half."
Defensively, the Bearcats had been repeatedly beaten to the basket on drives. Offensively, Anderson appeared content on jacking up jump shots rather than patiently running an offense that has made the Bearcats a serious player in the Eighth Region's Sweet 16 sweepstakes.
Drury's halftime speech might have blistered the walls but it also branded the Bearcats with a sense of urgency. Anderson outscored the Yellow Jackets 19-4 in the third period, transforming what had been a precarious position into a commanding lead. Anderson's advantage ballooned to 19 points late in the game.
"We won the game because of our defense," said Drury, who called on the Cats to play man-to-man and 2-3 zones throughout the game. Anderson also used two zone presses at different points.
"Ryan Wells really headed up our defense," Drury continued.
It all started in earnest when Penny scored on a runout after a Wells steal, then laid another in after a steal by Jacob Russell. Fouled on the shot, Penny missed the free throw, but Nathan Grooms pulled in the rebound and hit one of two free throws to make it 26-23.
Eighty seconds later, Wells canned a pull-up jumper that brought the Bearcats within one. Anderson finally took the lead when Russell powered his way to the bucket after a pass from Penny. The move was costly though as Russell took an elbow to his right eye. Bleeding profusely, Russell left the game but did not return. Paramedics checked Russell at the game site and cleared him to play but Drury opted to hold the sophomore out "unless we absolutely needed him."
Obviously shell-shocked at the change of events, Woodford had no answer on either end. Leading scorer Travis Swan was already on the bench in foul trouble. He returned to action in the fourth quarter but fouled out with 6:22 to go.
Woodford's Gus Sherrow was called for an offensive foul with 42.2 seconds left in the third quarter. As the teams strolled to the Anderson end of the court, Sherrow was slapped with a technical foul for pushing Anderson's Seth Goodlett.
Goodlett hit both ends of the bonus, then stayed at the line to sink both technical shots. On the ensuing possession, Goodlett buried a 3-pointer from the left wing. Anderson's lead had grown to 34-26 and for all practical purposes, only the winning margin remained in doubt.
"There was a little pressure," Goodlett said of his trip to the line and the subsequent home run ball. "That is what my teammates want out of me."
"I tell you what, Seth played a heck of a game," Wells said.
Drury said the tcchnical was a result of Anderson's defensive intensity after the break. "It showed their frustration," he said. "They weren't able to find what had worked. Our defense really picked up."
Woodford, which had shot 55 percent in the first half, made just 5 of 25 attempts after the break. After Swan scored the first basket of the second half, Woodford sank just one field goal over the next 13:37. Three of the Yellow Jackets' five second half baskets came in the final 1:42 after Anderson had built a 48-29 lead.
Anderson also dominated the backboards, outrebounding the Yellow Jackets 32-17 and not allowing the visitors a single offensive rebound.
The Bearcats, on the other hand, hit 12 of 19 shots after the break. There was no secret to the change in fortune as Anderson established the inside game with Penny, Russell and Nathan Grooms.
Still, Drury was concerned that his team continued its tendency to turn its game on and off. "It's fool's gold," he said. "We needed a wake up call. Hopefully, this was it, but we will just have to wait and see. We have some great kids on this team but we still have to learn to compete for 32 minutes."