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The Anderson County boys’ basketball team geared its defense Tuesday night to try to stop Ralphie Stone in the 30th District Tournament semifinals.
The Bearcats limited Stone, Collins’ senior forward and the 8th Region player of the year, to two field goals, but they had no answer for Brent Kidwell.
Kidwell, a 6-foot junior point guard, scored a game-high 18 points and also had several key assists in the Titans’ 57-44 triumph at Shelby County’s Mike Casey Gymnasium.
“He had a great game,” said Collins Coach Chris Gaither, whose team will play Shelby County at 7:45 tonight in the district final (both advance to next week's 8th Region Tournament). “He started out shooting the ball well, and I was pleased with his effort and his floor game as well.”
Kidwell, who averaged 10.2 points during the regular season and joined Stone on the all-region team, scored eight points in the first period to help the top-seeded Titans (24-3) withstand a hot-shooting start by the Bearcats.
Anderson County (13-9), which came in riding a 6-game winning streak, hit a trio of 3-pointers to start the game. Austin Cummins added a free throw to that, giving the Bearcats a 10-7 lead – which would be their largest of the game.
Kidwell quickly tied it at 10 with his second 3-pointer of the game, and, after Zack Freeman answered for Anderson with a hoop inside, Collins came back quickly with a 7-0 spurt.
Senior reserve Jayon Winstead started the run with a 3-pointer before Kidwell followed with a jumper. Junior guard Deion Cochran then capped it with a buzzer-beating putback of Stone’s missed 3-pointer to put the Titans on top, 17-12, at the end of the quarter.
“Responding to them early in the game [was key],” said Gaither, whose team had beaten the Bearcats, 63-55, Jan. 14 in Shelbyville and in the last two district finals.
Anderson County cut Collins’ lead to one (18-17) midway through the second quarter before Stone – who tallied 28 in the first game against the Bearcats – scored his first points of the semifinal with a spin move in the lane to begin a 9-0 run that extended into the second half.
“Ralphie settled for jump shots early,” Gaither said. “But credit Anderson County’s defense on him. They did a good job of not letting him catch the ball in the post.”
Stone continued to work, though. He hit three out of four free throws a short time later, in the low-scoring quarter (Collins outscored the Bearcats 6-5), to give the Titans a 23-17 halftime lead.
Collins then started the second half with a pair of steals by Lawson Page and Kidwell, which led to layups by both, to increase its lead to double figures, 27-17.
“The second half we came out really assertive on defense,” said Kidwell, who was coming off an 11-point, 6-assist, 6-rebound performance in the Titans’ regular-season finale. “That kind of took their hopes down a little bit.”
Still Anderson County, which played without senior forward Ross Cox (mononucleosis), wouldn’t go away. The Bearcats sandwiched 3-pointers around one free throw by Stone to make it 28-23.
The Titans answered, though, with another run, this time eight points in a row.
Cochran and Page hit back-to-back 3-pointers from the corner, both on drives and kick-outs by Kidwell, before Stone hit a turnaround to push the Titans on top by 13.
“We started the third quarter with six straight baskets, three of them came off our defense. We buckled down on defense,” said Gaither, whose team held its opponent to under 45 points for the ninth time this season. “Offensively we weren’t as efficient as we have been the last couple of games, but we were efficient enough to get the job done.”
Anderson County cut it to 40-31 at the end of the third quarter, then 44-36 early in the fourth quarter before Kidwell knocked down a rally-killing 3-pointer.
Collins’ lead didn’t dip below double digits the rest of the game.
“The key was defense,” Kidwell said. “We wanted to try to limit their three-pointers as much as possible because they shoot the ball well.”
After hitting three 3-pointers in the first three minutes of the game the Bearcats made just four in the final 29.
Kidwell hit seven field goals, including a trio of 3-pointers, and was 1-for-2 from the free-throw line. Meanwhile Stone, who averaged 18.3 points during the regular season, added 12 points. Although he only had two baskets, he was 8-for-13 from the free-throw line.
Cochran added eight points and Page seven.
Senior Luke Mann scored 14 points, mainly on the strength of four 3-pointers, to lead Anderson County.