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UPDATED, Monday, March 1.
SHELBYVILLE -- Shelby County jumped to a 12-0 lead, but needed an 11-0 spurt in the fourth quarter to seal the boys' 30th District championship, 59-46, over visiting Anderson County Friday night.
Anderson, which was going for its second consecutive district crown and third in four years, weathered Shelby's early barrage and actually took a brief lead midway through the second quarter, but had no answer for Shelby's athleticism, which created a 7-0 run in the third quarter to take control of the game.
Anderson, however, suffered a major blow when senior Will Ruggles went out with a leg injury early in the fourth quarter and the Bearcats down 43-35.
“That really hurt us,” said Anderson coach Glen Drury. “Will does so much for us with his passing and ball handling.”
Ruggles suffered a broken fibula and has seen his high school playing career come to an end.
His absence on the court was was easy to see, though. Anderson scored on the ensuing possession after Ruggles' injury but then Shelby went on the decisive 11-0 run to put things out of reach.
Shelby also lost Cache Tomlinson to an injury in the fourth quarter, the extent of which was not immediately clear. Neither Ruggles nor Tomlinson were able to walk on the floor to receive plaques for their all-tournament team selections.
Jacob Russell led Anderson 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Tomlinson and Donovan Johnson paced Shelby with 15 points each.
Anderson fell to 17-7, while Shelby improved to 21-5. The Rockets enter the Eighth Region tournament as the favorite to win the school's third regional title in five years.
Anderson can still successfully defend the regional title it won last year. “That was the first thing I told the kids. We have won it before when we were district runner-up (in 1997).”
However, Anderson will face an uphill climb if it plays Shelby again, a matchup that could happen in the regional final.
“They are so talented,” Drury said. “I see no reason why they should not win it.”
For a complete report and stats, see the March 3 edition of The Anderson News.