- Special Sections
- Public Notices
CRESTWOOD – Yes, Simon Kenton is that good.
At least the Pioneers were Saturday night, dominating Anderson County, 67-40, for their second straight Eighth Region championship. It was also the second consecutive season that they defeated the Lady Bearcats in the final step to the Sweet 16.
But if the 2008 final, a 48-44 Simon Kenton win, was not decided until the final 70 seconds, the 2009 edition was practically over in the first 70.
“They came out focused and were clicking on all cylinders both offensively and defensively,” said Anderson coach Tony Kays. “They set the tone for the game.”
It was an understatement.
The region’s Player of the Year, Chelsea Tolliver, disrupted Anderson’s first possession with a steal, converting it into a layup. The Lady Cats turned it over again and Tolliver blistered them with a 3-pointer to make it 5-0.
Sixty-three seconds had elapsed, but Anderson was never closer. The Lady Bearcats turned it over again, but this time it was Sydni Wainscott who did the damage, swishing another three.
Some observers had dubbed the Lady Pioneers as virtually unbeatable inside the Eighth Region. Just last week, the Kentucky Enquirer had predicted that they would go unchallenged during the tournament, but those that saw a club capable of pulling the upset pointed to Anderson with its terrific scoring tandem of Lindsay Fultz and Tiffany Davenport.
But Anderson was stunned early, trailed 20-5 at the end of the first quarter and never made a game of it. Simon Kenton’s game plan worked to perfection.
“That is what we wanted to do,” said Simon Kenton coach Jeff Stowers. “We didn’t want them to think they could play with us and we wanted a fast start.”
Driven by what they felt was a poor performance the night before – Simon Kenton had trailed Oldham County 13-4 and led by only one at halftime – the Pioneers put their collective thumb on the Lady Bearcats and never let up.
“I thought about calling a timeout when we got down 8-0, but I thought we could play through it,” Kays said.
While Anderson’s frustration became more and more evident, Simon Kenton’s confidence grew. Riding a 16-game winning streak into the final, Simon Kenton had an answer for everything the Lady Bearcats tried.
Even though the Pioneers were already in control, a second quarter sequence summarized the night for both teams. Early in the second frame, Tolliver drove to the lane where three Anderson players instinctively collapsed. The cool guard threaded a pass to Lyndsey Figgins, who sank a 10-foot jumper.
Minutes later, Davenport, who led Anderson with 14 points, energized an Anderson crowd waiting for one of Anderson’s patented runs with a long 3-pointer. But Figgins answered with a layup, then Nikki Brown completed a three-point play.
It is what can be expected when a team has five seniors, four of whom have played extensively for four years, and three juniors.
“They are just all on the same page on both ends of the floor,” Kays said.
“We have a system and the girls know what to do,” Stowers explained.
Even though Tolliver went to the bench with her third foul at the 5:30 mark of the second quarter, Anderson could make no headway. All five Simon Kenton starters had scored by the mid-point of the first quarter and three players reached double figures. Tolliver and Figgins both scored 16 points while Brown tallied 14 in a reserve role.
“We kept thinking we would be able to make a run but they just took it away,” Kays said. “They are so quick defensively and they have size. We block out to go for a rebound but they could just reach over and get the ball anyway. It was very frustrating.”
Simon Kenton’s dominance was so complete that the Lady Bearcats had just one sequence of successive scores – a jumper from Fultz and a put-back by Sydney Brown – in the first half. Simon Kenton led 35-16 at the half.
By the time the Lady Bearcats scored another four straight points, Simon Kenton led 58-23 midway through the fourth quarter.
By that time, Kays had already taken his senior starters – Fultz, Davenport and Makenzie Stoner – out of the lineup. Fultz fouled out midway through the third quarter, then Kays substituted for the other two at different times of the fourth frame. All received standing ovations from the large throng of Anderson supporters as their high school basketball careers came to an end.
Stoner was sporting a black eye, the result of a collision during the game, as she emerged from the locker room for the trip home.
All were in tears on the Anderson bench. “The finality of what happened hit them,” Kays said. “They have had outstanding careers.”
Fultz, who had been sick with a virus earlier in the week, finished her Lady Bearcat days with 1,584 points, second only to Santana McKee. Davenport leaves as the school’s all-time 3-point field goal leader. Stoner played a somewhat limited role for two years and was not a starter until her senior year but often drew the assignment of guarding the other team’s best perimeter player.
Reserves Taryn Terrell, who started at times during the 2008-09 season, and Kritty Morrow, neither of which had big statistical lines, still received large ovations from the Anderson faithful when they left the court for the final time.
Fultz, Davenport and seventh-grader Eriel McKee were named to the all-regional tournament team.
Anderson finished at 20-7. The Anderson senior class ended up with a four-year record of 84-37.
But three of those four seasons ended with a loss to Simon Kenton, which is 27-4 this season.
“They are extremely well-coached and know what they want to do,” said Kays. “They were able to draw some charges on us and it is obvious they work on that. I think they will do very well at the state tournament. I think they will at least get to the semi-finals.”
Simon Kenton really is that good.
E-mail John Herndon at email@example.com.