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Elliott County made the plays down the stretch to defeat Anderson County 74-61 in the first round of the state tournament Thursday in Rupp Arena.
Elliott never trailed but withstood several Anderson punches to move on to the quarter-finals, where the Lions will play Shelby Valley. Shelby Valley knocked off last year's state champion, Mason County, in the first game of the night.
Elliott built a 51-40 lead late in the third quarter but Anderson rallied with seven straight points to end the period. Anderson got within 58-55 and had a chance to cut the lead more or even tie but could not convert. On the ensuing possession, Elliott's Jonathan Ferguson put back an offensive rebound – Elliott had three shots – and on Anderson's next possession, Ethan Faulkner came up with a steal near mid-court, then converted it into a three-point play to make it 63-55. Anderson was never closer than six the rest of the way.
“I want to give Elliott County all the credit,” said Anderson coach Glen Drury. “When you get to the post season it is about players making plays and Elliott did that.”
Elliott limited Anderson's C.J. Penny working room around the basket. Penny finished with just 10 points after scorching Elliott for 31 when the teams played on Jan. 10.
Jacob Russell led Anderson with 20 points.
Another key was Elliott winning the battle of the backboards 31-25. “When we played the first time, they hurt us on the boards and we wanted to concentrate on that,” said Elliott coach Rick Mays.
“I am proud of our team and what we accomplished this season,” said Drury, who finished at 24-6.
** Penny finished his high school career with 2101 points.
**The crowd of 21,048 set a first round record. The previous best was in 1987.
For a complete report, see the March 25 edition of The Anderson News.
Final score. Elliott 74, Anderson 61. We will have more after the post game press conferences.
2:19 to go Elliott 65, Anderson 57
End of third quarter, Elliott 51, Anderson 47
Elliott built a 51-40 lead but a three-point play from Jacob Russell, then C.J. Penny getting steal and a layup energized the Bearcats and their faithful. This one is not over. Penny has 3 fouls
2:40 to go in the third quarter, Elliott 47, Anderson 40
Elliott has really done a good job of denying Penny and Russell the ball. They have combined for just 14 points.
Update at halftime...
Sometimes your eyes can deceive you when it comes to shooting percentages. Anderson is actually shooting better than Elliott, 56.5 percent to 45.2 for the Lions but Elliott has hit seven 3-pointers in 15 attempts. Anderson must slow the Lions attack down. Right now, the pace favors Elliott.
Halftime, Elliott 38, Anderson 31
We are at halftime and the Bearcats are in some trouble against a hot-shooting Elliott County team. Elliott leads 38-31. Anderson struggled offensively at times, but the big factor has been Elliott's outside shooting and the fact that Anderson played without C.J. Penny for the last 5:44 of the first half after Penny picked up his second foul. Aderson was down 21-17 at the time. Anderson had pulled within 25-24 on a three-point play from Walt Ruggles, but Elliott's Jonathan Ferguson buried three straight 3-pointers that had the neutral fans buzzing. Anderson is within striking distance but the Bearcats have their work cut out for them.
End of the first quarter
We are at the end of the first quarter and Elliott County leads 19-15. Right now the game is a battle of the pace. Anderson is trying to slow things down while Elliott County is shooting as fast as it can and 6-foot7 Timmy Knipp has hit some big shots for the Lions. Elliott has no answer for C.J. Penny and Jacob Russell inside, but the Bearcats are not shooting well from the outside, a normal occurence at the Sweet 16. Landon Jenkins did have a big 3-pointer late in the first quarter. We will be back live at halftime.
Posted at 8:45 p.m.
We are getting close to tip off and I can tell you that Anderson County fans are out in full force. I hope someone turned out the lights. Bearcat fans have taken nearly an entire endzone and have curled all the way around past midcourt in the upper arena on one side. They have taken over another section across the way. It is hard to guess but several have put the number between 4,000 and 5,000 red clad Bearcat fans in Rupp Arena.
Posted Thursday, March 19 8:20 p.m.
Shelby Valley moves on to the quarterfinals, eliminating the 2008 state champion, Mason County, 51-44. Shelby Valley was outstanding in the second half. Guard Elisha Justice, a junior, is the real deal, and hit a pair of free throws with 49.3 seconds to go that put things out of reach. It went back and forth all night long and was much closer than the score indicated.
Anderson County's C.J. Penny will have a chane to impress a lot of college recruiters tonight. I have seen North Carolina A & T's Jerry Eaves, but sitting right niext to me on press row is UK coach Billy Gillispie. Apparently UK is not looking at Penny but the Anderson senior has a chance to turn some heads. There are quite a few other coaches here that Penny can impress.
Posted March 19 7:45 p.m.
Shelby Valley has made a nice comeback and leads 33-31 going into the fourth quarter.
At halftime, I ran into former Anderson County assistant coach Matt O'Neil who has come in from Charlotte, NC to see the Bearcats tonight. O'Neal was an assistant to coach Glen Drury in the mid-1990's. Also have run into several Eighth Region coaches, all of whom think the Bearcats have a chance to spring the upset tonight.
We shall see. Will be back after the end of the first game.
We are at halftime of the first game. Mason County has been impressive, opening a 24-18 lead over Shelby Valley, a team that some feel can win the whol tournament. Russ Middleton has 15 points for Mason County.
I just ran into former Bearcat David Ishmael, who graduated from Anderson in 1986 and his dad Dutch, who was an assistant coach on Anderson's 1971 state runner-up team. Both were sporting those red Anderson shirts that are overtaking Rupp. Dutch told me he hopes the Bearcats pull it off. The Ishmaels now run a large car dealership in Mt. Sterling.
We are live from Rupp Arena where Anderson County will be taking on Elliott County in the final first round game Thursday at 8 p.m.
The lower level is just about full, with the exception of the Anderson and Elliott cheering sections, but if things hold up, it looks like the Bearcats will have the largest fan contingent of the night. Mason County is right behind me and has a good following but just off to my left is already a sea of red “Anderson County” shirts. Walking into the arena tonight, you saw those shirts everywhere and looking up at the crowd, there are those red shirts everywhere and one of the Anderson sections is almost full to the top of Rupp Arena.
Interesting stat after the first three sessions of the Sweet 16. In every game, the home team has won. That will be interesting, since the luck of the blind draw has designated Anderson the home team against Elliott.
We will be back at halftime of the Mason County-Shelby Valley game.