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DRY RIDGE – It was a forgettable finish for the Shelby County girls’ basketball team in its return to the 8th Region Tournament.
The Rockets, making their first appearance in the regional in 4 years, lost an 8-point lead to Gallatin County in the final 2:12 of regulation and then the game, 78-73, in overtime Tuesday night at Grant County High School.
“We feel like we gave one away there,” said Shelby County Coach Mike Sowers, whose team was outscored, 9-4, in the extra session. “But give them all the credit.”
The Wildcats (20-7) hit 11 3-pointers – including eight in the first half to keep the game close – and rattled the Rockets with some full-court pressure late in the game.
“They put heat on us late and we made some mistakes at costly times,” Sowers said.
The loss ended another resurgent season for Shelby County (18-10), which recorded its most victories in six years in addition to advancing to the region tournament for the first time in four.
“It was definitely a positive season for us,” said Sowers, whose team had five snow-outs during the regular season. “It’s something to build on.”
Forward Justus Martin scored a team-high 23 points, becoming the first female Rocket to do so as a sophomore, and junior forward Mackenzie Raizor added 16, leaving her four shy of 1,000 in her career at Shelby County.
Senior forward Nikki Simmons scored 14 and grabbed a team-best 10 rebounds as the Rockets outrebounded Gallatin County, 42-17 (Martin added nine and Raizor eight).
Shelby shot 49.1 percent from the field and was 16-for-21 (76.2 percent) from the free-throw line in defeat.
Wildcats senior guard Brooke Dossett, an all-region player, scored a game-high 24 points (22 after halftime), and sophomore guard Autumn Bowen had 23, including 20 in the first half, mostly on the strength of six 3-pointers. Junior wing Hannah Dossett added 20 points, 14 after intermission, as Gallatin County avenged its earlier 56-53 OT loss to the Rockets.
In that first meeting, Dec. 14 in the Mike Casey Classic, Bowen tallied two points. Tuesday she eclipsed that with her 3-pointer 1:17 into the game. It was the first of a bevy of bombs (Bowen hit three and Hannah Dossett two) in the first quarter by the Wildcats, who led, 19-14, after eight minutes.
The Rockets responded with a 7-0 run to start the second quarter, on a rebound-basket by Simmons, a 3-pointer from Katie Hudgens and a jumper by reserve Madison Todd, to take a 2-point lead.
It was back-and-forth from there until Martin and Hudgens hit back-to-back baskets to put Shelby up, 33-29. Bowen, who scored all 11 of Gallatin’s points in the second period, hit her sixth 3-point shot to cut that deficit to one at halftime.
“If not for her, we might have had a ten- or fifteen-point lead at halftime,” Sowers said.
The Rockets got rolling in the third quarter, pushing their lead to 10 (50-40) as Martin capped a 6-0 run with a successful spin move with 1:41 to play.
Shelby County kept Gallatin County at arm’s length for most of the fourth period until late.
Martin’s rebound basket put the Rockets up 65-57 with 2:20 to play, but the Wildcats outscored them, 12-4, the rest of regulation.
“We just fell apart at the wrong time,” Sowers said.
Brooke Dossett hit a 3-pointer 8 seconds after Martin’s field goal, and after a turnover she hit two free throws to cut the margin to three.
Simmons scored inside for Shelby before Hannah Dossett hit a long 3-pointer with 1:19 to play to make it a 2-point game. The Wildcats tied the score 23 seconds later, when Bowen hit a layup – her only field goal of the second half.
Hudgens hit two free throws with 40 seconds to play to put the Rockets back on top, but Hannah Dossett hit two with 13 seconds left to tie the score again.
On Shelby’s subsequent possession reserve Jordan Holt, who hit the game-winning 3-pointer to beat Gallatin in their earlier meeting, drove to the basket and put up a contested shot. She fell to the floor, but no foul was called.
Hannah Dossett ended up with the rebound, but her 27-foot heave at the buzzer hit the backboard, sending the game into OT.
The teams traded baskets in the first 1:03 of the 4-minute extra period before Brooke Dossett’s baseline jumper with 2:11 to play gave Gallatin the lead for good.
On the Rockets’ ensuing possession Mackenzie Raizor got tied up trying to put back a teammate’s miss, and the Wildcats got the ball via the alternate possession.
Brooke Dossett hit two free throws with 40.9 seconds left and two more 16 seconds later after the Rockets missed a 3-pointer.
Gallatin County, which will play Simon Kenton at 3 p.m. Saturday in a semifinal, finished 21- of-23 (91.3 percent) from the free-throw line.
Hudgens and Martin had four assists apiece for Shelby County, which allowed seven second-chance points despite giving up only four offensive rebounds.
“Hard to believe we hit free throws and outrebounded them by such a margin and lost,” Sowers said.
The Rockets will lose Simmons (6.3 points and 4.6 rebounds per game) to graduation but next season should return everyone else on their roster, led by returning starters Raizor (13.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg), Martin (11 ppg, 8.1 rpg), Savannah Raizor (9.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Hudgens (6.6 ppg).
“I’ve heard a couple of people already talking about us as one of the top teams in the region next year, but we’ve got a lot of work to do between now and then,” Sowers said.