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Sturdy is the head that wears the crown as the favorite in the 8th Region.
The Collins boys’ basketball team, the prohibitive pick by many to win the region, opened its season with a convincing, 70-37 victory at Gallatin County on Tuesday night.
“We are the number one team in the region in the preseason. We’ve got to set a tone early to tell teams we want to represent the Eighth Region this year, and we’ll do whatever it takes to do that,” Titans Coach Chris Gaither said.
Behind its pressure defense Collins built a 20-3 lead and rolled from there to a 33-point victory in a rematch of last season’s 8th Region Tournament semifinal.
Collins beat the Wildcats, 56-47, in that game at Henry County to end their 22-9 season. The next night the Titans lost, 50-40, to Oldham County in the 8th Region final to conclude their season at 24-11.
Both teams returned two starters from that semifinal match-up for their season-opener in Warsaw.
In the March 5 meeting Collins led, 13-1, at the end of the first quarter. Tuesday night the Titans were up, 16-3, after 8 minutes.
“Being able to hold a team to three points in a quarter is a pretty good accomplishment,” said Gaither, whose team later led, 33-12, at halftime. “Our defense was really good. We really concentrated on locking down Kristan Morgan.”
Morgan, a senior guard, led Gallatin in scoring (15.6 points per game) last season, but he had only 11 points – on 3-for-14 shooting – Tuesday night.
Gaither said that senior guard Camron Wells, a newcomer who didn’t come out for the team last season, started off on Morgan, and senior swingman Dez Marshall and junior wing Ralphie Stone also took their turns guarding him.
Marshall led Collins with 21 points, thanks to 9-of-11 shooting from the field. Senior shooting guard Buddy Johnson added 16 points on the strength of four 3-pointers.
“Offensively we are a much better transition team with Brent Kidwell at point guard,” Gaither said. “Everybody is running the floor, and that’s creating open shots for Buddy and Dez.”
Kidwell, a 6-foot sophomore point guard, tallied 10 assists and 5 points in his first start. Senior center Terez Smith added eight points and seven rebounds for the Titans, who outrebounded the Wildcats, 43-29, (Marshall led Collins with eight).
Sophomore reserve forward Mark Sorrells contributed seven points for the Titans, who shot 49.2 percent (29 of 59) from the field and held Gallatin to 25.5 percent (13 of 51).
Collins hosts another 8th Region rival, North Oldham (and senior shooting guard David Levitch, who will walk-on at the University of Louisville next year), at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.