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Struggles of Bearcat season go beyond reason

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Trying to find single culprit nearly impossible in bizarre campaign

You could search every inch of the earth and still not find a plausible explanation for the struggles the Anderson County boys’ basketball team have experienced this year.

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You can point to the injuries and sickness that have plagued the Bearcats. That would make a little bit of sense as to why a team that entered the season as one of the favorites to win the Eighth Region and was ranked in the state’s Top 25 stood at 8-12 after going 1-2 last week.

But injuries are a part of the game that every team faces in varying degrees. You know they are going to happen, but you never know when or to whom.

You can also point to the graduation of last year’s point guard, John Paul Garmon. He’s been to several Bearcat games this year as a fan, but Garmon is now a student at the University of Kentucky. During his career as a Bearcat, he scored over 1,000 åpoints and delivered over 400 assists. And some of the Anderson coaches will tell you those numbers can’t even tell the story of what Garmon meant to Bearcat basketball

But it’s high school sports. By that very definition, players move on after three or four years. You know it will happen and do the best you can to revamp things after those players move on.

Then there are times you have to just scratch your head, shrug your shoulder and say, “I wish I knew the answer.”

That was Bearcat coach Glen Drury last Tuesday. His Bearcats had seen a nip-and-tuck game turn sour when Gallatin County dominated the fourth quarter on its way to a 55-43 win on the court that bears Drury’s name.

One play in that eight-minute stretch might be a snapshot of Anderson’s 2017-18 season.

Gallatin had already taken control and led 46-37 with just under four minutes to play when Anderson’s Hunter Rutherford deflected a Wildcat pass.

It went through the Gallatin basket.

A pass. Not a shot.

And it still ended up in the opponent’s basket.

Bizarre does not do justice in description.

“In all of 30-some years I have been coaching, I have never seen us tip a ball that goes through the rim,” a bewildered Drury said.

Right play. Right defense. Everything was right and it still went wrong for the Bearcats.

To put Drury’s timeline in perspective, Ronald Reagan was in the White House when Drury became head coach at Western High School. The Cosby Show and Family Ties were must-see-TV and an outfit called “Wham!” was one of the big names in pop music.

OK, I admit, I looked that tidbit about Wham! up but that name describes Anderson’s season 33 years later.

To be sure, that one play had little effect on the outcome. The guard-heavy Wildcats had seen guard Justin Rassman hit a shot at the buzzer to give Gallatin a 36-34 lead going into the final eight minutes. Rassman then tallied the first eight points of the fourth quarter to put Gallatin up 44-34 and prompt the Wildcats to spread the floor and beat the Bearcats on the dribble.

But that one bizarre play captures Anderson basketball in 2017-18.

Friday, Anderson looked much better against a St. Patrick team that was obviously not in the Bearcats’ class and is not expected to be around long in the post-season. But the following night, Anderson traveled to Lafayette to take on a Generals’ team ranked in the Top 10 in most of the major polls.

The Bearcats found out earlier in the day they would be without second-leading scorer and two-year starter, Dylan Pittman, against Lafayette. Of the eight different players who have started games, six have now missed at least one game because of sickness or injury. Two key reserves have missed extenive time.

Since Oct. 15, the Bearcats have had a full roster for practice or games about a dozen times. you know injuries and sickness are part of things, but rarely so many through a season. That lack of continuity has greatly hindered what has been a strength of Drury’s best teams, coming together to play what he calls “five-as-one.”

“I feel for our kids, honestly,” Drury said. “It’s not like they aren’t trying. It has been some of the most unlucky things I have ever seen come across a group.”

There are those who believe luck has nothing to do with the outcome of games, but those people don’t live in the real world. Bad bounces, unfortunate slips or officials’ calls that could go either way just happen. You know they will and just have to keep plugging along in the hope that over time, those things even out.

It’s all anyone can do.

As I drove home Wednesday night, my mind went back to March, 1974 when I sat on the Anderson bench at Henry County High School for the Eighth Region championship game. We were locked in a tight game with Scott County when sometime in the second half a wild scramble for a rebound ended with a Scott player tipping the ball in.

For Anderson.

It wasn’t the deciding basket and, if I remember correctly, was early in the third quarter, whicn meant there was time to overcome.

But it happened. Anderson won, 55-54, to take the region.

Drury, who has guided Anderson to consecutive district titles and regional championship game appearances, said he offered some perspective to his team Wednesday night.

“I said, ‘If this is the worst thing in your life, you will be all right,’” he said. “We are at a point that we can’t go anywhere but up.”

A few moments later, Drury offered a faint smile.

“We are hoping we can catch lightning in a bottle,” he said.

That happens too.