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The Shelby County boys’ basketball team had just finished cutting down the net after winning the 30th District Tournament last Friday night, but Rockets Coach Jason Couch was already looking ahead to this week’s 8th Region Tournament.
“Everything we do now is icing on the cake,” Couch told his squad in the locker room after it beat Collins 65-53 in district final.
That’s because after starting the season 0-8 the Rockets (16-14) will go to New Castle as one of the field’s four district champs.
“No one ever expected us to get in as a district champion,” Couch said. “We can go in there and play relaxed and play loose.”
Shelby County will try to top off the metaphorical cake, and top winning its first district championship in four years, at 6:30 tonight, when they meet 32nd District runner-up Simon Kenton (13-13) in the 8th Region Tournament quarterfinals at Henry County High School. If the Rockets win they’ll play the winner of tonight’s second game between Oldham County (22-6) and Henry County (20-10) – the Rockets lost to the Colonels by nine points but beat the Wildcats by 14 during the regular season – at 8 p.m. Monday in the tournament’s semifinals. The final will be 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Shelby County didn’t play Simon Kenton during the regular season, but the two have had several common opponents. The Pioneers are coming off a 65-64 loss to Grant County in the district final (Simon had beaten the Braves in a pair of regular-season meetings). The Rockets won, 61-40, at Grant County on Jan. 3.
Other common opponents include Gallatin County, Scott High, Cooper and Oldham County. Both teams lost to Cooper and Oldham, but beat Gallatin. The only difference is that Shelby County topped Scott 60-45 Dec. 28 in the Lloyd Memorial Invitational Tournament while the Eagles clipped the Pioneers 92-80 Feb. 15.
“They’re pretty good, they’ve played such a tough schedule,” Couch said of his team's first-round foe.
Simon Kenton is led by all-region performer Taylor Morrison, a 6-foot-2 senior forward who is averaging 21 points per game. He scored a season-high 32 points in an 83-75 loss to Covington Catholic on Feb. 18 (one night after he tallied 27 against top-ranked Ballard and three nights after he put up 28 in a loss to Scott High).
“He drives it well, he can shoot it, he’s definitely a tough guy to guard,” Couch said.
The Pioneers’ second-leading scorer is 6-4 junior guard Noah Robinson (8.5 ppg)
“They’ve got size, they’ve got big guards,” Couch said. “I definitely think we’re going to have to use our athletic ability and our quickness to our advantage.”
Junior forward Matt Mullins leads Simon Kenton in rebounding (6.9 per game).
Shelby County (16-14)
“The first thing we have to do is we’re going to have to rebound. If we don’t, we could be in trouble,” Couch said. “The second thing is we’ve got to force some turnovers. We’ve got to turn them over and get some offense off our defense.”
One of the other keys, Couch said, is getting his team prepared to play.
“Our kids have little [sophomore guard Malik Manica played in the region tournament for Collins two years ago] to no regional tournament experience,” he said. “We have to get our kids ready and focused to get out there and play.”