Rockets roll over Anderson for District title

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By Todd Martin

The Shelby County boys' basketball team avenged an early January loss to Anderson County, steamrolling the Bearcats en route to a 73-61 to win the 30th District crown Saturday at Spencer County.

Trailing 8-7 after the first quarter, the Rockets opened the second quarter on a 16-0 run that stretched out to a 21-2 run and a 28-12 Shelby lead before Anderson could stop the bleeding. The Rockets led 34-17 at halftime.

The Rockets would push the lead to 20, 54-34, in the third quarter before Anderson put on a late run to shrink the lead to single digits, but the Rockets hit seven of eight free throws in the final 1:30 to seal the game.

The Rockets' switch to a 1-3-1 defense that used a halfcourt trap, gave Anderson County fits throughout the second quarter.

"We didn't want Anderson County to get the same shots they made in January," SCHS head coach Mike Clark said. "And we wanted to make them play a step faster than maybe they wanted to."

With the trap forcing turnovers, the Rockets were able to make it a fullcourt game, getting several quick baskets in transition before Anderson County had time to set their defense.

Alex Matthews led the charge in the second quarter, scoring eight of his 10 points on easy fast-break layups.

Clark also noted his team's work on the glass, and quick, unselfish passing as keys to the run.

"We did a great job of defensive rebounding in the second quarter, holding Anderson County to just two offensive rebounds," he said. "We got a lot of long rebounds, and with Anderson sending four guys to the glass, we got several two and three-on-one opportunities that led to easy baskets," he said. "Our passing the last couple of weeks has been phenomenal. Our guards are hitting our shooters in the right spots, and our interior passing has been fantastic. We've been an unselfish team all year, but over the last few games the guys have taken their passing to a new level."

While Clark said the Rockets expected a hard fought game with Anderson, he said he was confident in his team's ability. It also didn't hurt that the Rockets had the revenge-factor working in their favor.

"Any time a district opponent beats you in the regular season you make adjustments, and I thought we made those adjustments very successfully," he said. "We were very confident in our ability to win. For us, it was more about what we do than what our opponents do."

Tim Sanford led the Rockets with 23 points, on an extremely hot shooting night. Sanford buried three three-pointers and was on the receiving end of several outlet passes for easy lay-ins.

Joining him in double figures were Coty Minnis with 15 points and 11 rebounds and Donovan Johnson with 13 points and Matthews added 11.

Clark also noted the play of Nigel Beach, who, although he scored just two points, played a huge role on defense.

"It didn't really show up in the stats, but he played a phenomenal defensive game, especially in that second quarter run," Clark said.

Although the Rockets coasted to the victory, Clark said there are still areas of concern as Shelby heads into the 8th Region Tournament.

"One area we need to look at improving on is late game shots with the lead," he said. "We took a couple of ill-advised shots late in the game when we had the lead. Those shots were OK when we were making our run, but we need to understand that there's a time when maybe we don't need to take those shots. And we need to execute better against the halfcourt trap. Anderson County's fullcourt press didn't bother us, but their halfcourt trap gave us a little trouble late in the game."

All-District team

Four Shelby County players -- Donovan Johnson, Alex Matthews, Coty Minnis and Tim Sanford -- were named to the All-District Tournament team.