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Other than a defensive let up in the second quarter, Shelby County had control of the game in defeating Anderson County, 59-46, in the 30th District Final on Friday.
Shelby jumped out to a rowdy lead in the first quarter, 12-0, two 3-pointers by Cache Tomlinson and one by Donovan Johnson, and Boomer Beckley finished a 3-point play with 5:19 to play in the first before Anderson got on the board.
“We wanted to come out early and set the tempo and make them play at the pace we wanted to play,” Rockets Coach Mike Clark said. “You have to give them credit for withstanding an early lead by us. You also have to give our players credit for finishing strong.”
Into the second quarter, the Bearcats fought back and took the lead briefly, 19-17, on a 3-pointer, but Shelby regained the lead and went into halftime up 25-22.
Shelby switched from its first-half man-to-man defense to a zone in the second and made some big stops to start stretching its lead. Offensively, once the Rockets were up by 10 points, they slowed down and waited for a high-percentage shot. They committed just four turnovers in the game.
“We did not want to give up easy looks late in the game,” Clark said. “But we were more concerned with keeping [Jacob] Russell off the offensive glass.”
Rockets Nigel Beach and Eric Standafer had the task of shutting down Russell, a 6-foot-4 forward who scored 17 points, and they outrebounded him 8-4.
Anderson came out and nailed two 3-pointers to open the fourth quarter, cutting the lead to 41-35. But that was as close as the Bearcats would come.
The Rockets (21-5) capped the game with the intensity of the first quarter. In the last two minutes, Darryl Hicks and Johnson each made crowd-pleasing dunks, in transition.
Tomlinson, whose 15 points joined Johnson's as the Rockets' leading scorers, went down in a tangle of players early in the fourth quarter and came up limping with a sprained ankle, but Clark expects him back for the first round of the 8th Region Tournament.
The Rockets will play North Oldham at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Henry County High School.
“Last year, we came up short to Anderson County,” Beach said. “It feels good to cut down some nets. We’re the No. 1 team in the region probably. Everybody’s out to get us so we have to play strong, smart, together basketball.”