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A cold-shooting first half for the Shelby County boys’ basketball team and a hot-shooting second half for Collins combined to keep the Titans unbeaten in this country-clash.
The Rockets shot 28.6 percent from the field before halftime, and host Collins connected on 53.6 percent of its shots after on its way to a 68-45 victory Friday night in a 30th District game, and the first meeting of the season between the county’s public high schools.
“We just couldn’t get the ball in the basket,” said first-year Shelby County Coach Jason Couch, whose team shot 30.4 percent for the game.
The Titans had won the first seven meeting in the series by an average of 16 points, but last season the Rockets led Collins at halftime in all three of their match-ups. Shelby County led by 1 point last Dec. 2, by 10 on Jan. 13 and by 5 on Feb. 22 at halftime of the district tournament semifinals.
The Titans, who rallied for 17-, 11- and 16-point victories in each of those games, remembered that this time around.
“We came out with a lot of intensity,” said Collins senior forward Dez Marshall, who tallied a game-high 21 points for the Titans. “Last year every time we played them we were down at halftime. This year we wanted to come out early and get ahead of them.”
After Shelby freshman Malik Manica – who played last season at Collins – hit 1 of 2 free throws 43 seconds into the game, Marshall scored inside to give the Titans a 2-1 lead. Shelby junior guard Kipp Moore answered with a basket on the other end before Collins scored seven consecutive points – on back-to-back baskets by senior center Terez Smith, one free throw from Marshall and a shot in the lane by senior guard Buddy Johnson – to put the Titans ahead to stay, 9-3.
The Rockets twice cut Collins’ lead to two, but Brent Kidwell’s jumper with 1 second left in the first quarter put the Titans on top 16-11.
Collins came back with the first three points of the second period to push its lead to nine, before Shelby sophomore Keenan Cochran hit a 3-pointer.
Two free throws from Manica trimmed the Titans’ lead to 24-16 with 1:29 to play in the first half before Collins scored five of the next seven points. Ralphie Stone’s bank shot with 9 seconds left in the first half gave Collins a 29-18 lead at intermission.
“We were only down eleven at halftime, and I thought we’d played horrible,” said Couch, whose team was 6-for-21 from the field in the first 16 minutes. “We had just missed some opportunities.”
Collins Coach Chris Gaither said he also felt like his team had missed chances in the first half.
“Tonight we had opportunities to make runs, and we bailed them out by reaching and fouling and putting them on the free-throw line,” he said.
The Titans (6-1, 1-0), though, made the most of their chances early in the second half. They outscored Shelby County, 17-5, during the first 4½minutes of the third quarter.
“Our goal in the second half was to play a lot smarter on defense and get out in transition,” Marshall said.
He scored seven of those points, hitting a pair of 2-pointers before connecting on the first of three consecutive 3-pointers by the Titans (Kidwell and Johnson followed his lead), in that spurt as Collins’ lead grew to 46-23.
“Our defense picked up a little bit, and we turned them over, then we were able to score in transition, and we were more efficient offensively,” Gaither said.
Marshall’s layup capped the third-quarter scoring and gave the Titans a 54-31 advantage heading into the fourth period.
“He is so crafty,” Couch said of Marshall, who was 9-for-15 from the field and 2-of-4 from the free-throw line.
Led by Marshall, a 6-foot-4 forward, Collins outscored Shelby, 32-12, near the basket. Six-foot-three Stone (15 points off the bench) and the 6-6 Smith (10 points) also contributed.
Shelby County (1-6, 1-1), meanwhile, finished the game 14-for-46 from the field, including 2-of-11 (18.2 percent) from 3-point range. The Rockets hit 15 of 20 free-throw attempts.
“We had to settle for more jump shots than they did,” Couch said. “If we could have just hit some shots and put some points on the board, we could have been in the game.”
The Titans, meanwhile, were 26 of 54 (48.1 percent) from the field, including 15 for 28 in the second half and outrebounded the Rockets 35-28.
Johnson added 11 points and five rebounds for Collins, which nearly placed five in double figures (Kidwell finished with eight points to go along with five rebounds and four assists).
“They’re an outstanding team,” Couch said. “If they play the way they did in the second half, they’re one of the best teams in Louisville.”
Freshman forward James Gordon led Shelby County with eight points. Moore added six points, a team-high seven rebounds and four assists for the Rockets, who play at Franklin County at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
The Titans play Hopkinsville at 4:30 p.m. today in their first game of the King of the Bluegrass tournament at Fairdale. Win or lose Collins will play Friday.
Collins and Shelby County will again Jan. 11 at Shelby County’s Mike Casey Gymnasium.