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After the Rockets cut Anderson County’s lead to one, 27-26, with a big second quarter, fans probably expected Shelby to come out firing after the break. But a six-point effort in the third quarter cost the Rockets (14-14) in a 55-49 loss to Bearcats (21-5) in Friday’s 30th District Championship game.
Anderson County had outscored Shelby, 13-6, with just seconds remaining in the third, but the Rockets’ trailed just 40-32.
After forcing Anderson to take a bad shot, a bad bounce cost Shelby. Anderson’s Jacob Russell scooped up a loose ball and hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer, giving Anderson their largest lead of the game, 43-32.
“Unfortunately, that desperation three really cost us,” SCHS Coach Mike Clark said. “That put them up double digits and put us in a hole.”
The Rockets tried to rally, and did cut the lead to 48-47 with a 13-2 run. Daryl Hicks score five consecutive points, and Anthony Payton and Boomer Beckley scored four each.
“The guys did a great job of recovering after that third quarter,” Clark said. “We had two or three chances to tie the game or take the lead, late, but we just didn’t execute well enough.”
And Anderson County hit five of six free throws in the final 30 seconds to secure the victory.
“Our inability to get shots that we wanted in the third quarter, coupled with some costly turnovers in the third and late in the game, are what cost us,” Clark said. “That desperation three was a crucial shot, but really the five minutes before that when we struggled to get anything going offensively was the story of the game.”
But, despite his team's scoring just two field goals in the third and being outscored 16-6, Clark said there was a silver lining.
“When you consider the chances we had at the end, we’re not completely frustrated,” he said. “We are disappointed that we didn’t win the district because that’s one of our goals every year, but it’s not an elimination game. We have to forget about that game and focus on the region.”
Beckley led the Rockets with 12 points, and Hicks and Donovan Johnson each added 10.
Though Johnson also added 12 rebounds, he struggled offensively against the Bearcats' physical defense. His 10 points were nine below his average.
“Donovan did a great job rebounding and passing, but it came down that he just didn’t shoot the ball as well as we’re accustomed to him shooting,” Clark said. “We certainly know he’s going to shoot the ball better over at Henry County [in the region tournament], so we’re really not that worried about it. We were very pleased with his effort on both ends, and defensively he had a great game and added a couple of blocks.”
Johnson, Beckley and Cache Tomlinson were picked from the Rockets for the 30th District All-Tournament Team.