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NEW CASTLE – Oldham County did the hard work in climbing out of a late 13-point hole Monday night against Simon Kenton.
But once the Colonels finally got a lead, they couldn't quite finish the job.
Simon scored five points in the final minute to stun OC 60-57 in the boys Region 8 semifinals at Henry County, ending the Colonels' season one night short of the region title game. The Pioneers will play South Oldham at 7 p.m. Tuesday for the Region 8 championship.
OC (23-7) trailed 44-31 late in the third quarter before point guard Hayden Hawes led a charge to get the Colonels back in the game. Hawes' 20 points helped the District 29 champs to a 57-55 lead with a minute to play.
But Simon (15-13) made the plays in the final 60 seconds to end OC's first season under coach Coy Zerhusen.
“We were one or two plays, a bounce here or there, from completing the comeback and getting a big win,” Zerhusen said.
The Colonels beat the Pioneers 72-65 during the regular season Feb. 7 in Buckner. But OC was shorthanded Monday, playing without senior guard Jordan Gates.
Gates, who had recently taken on a greater scoring role in the wake of Austin Wills' dismissal, sustained a concussion during practice Sunday when he collided with a teammate, Zerhusen said.
“We missed his aggressiveness, we missed his steals, we missed his energy, we missed his love, we missed him,” Hawes said. Darrius Taylor filled Gates' role in the starting lineup.
Simon got out to a double-digit third quarter lead while OC struggled with transition defense, defensive rebounding and foul trouble.
The foul trouble had an adverse effect on the Colonels' frontcourt, as forwards Jacob Bates, Kyle Eldridge and Austin Perkins all eventually fouled out.
Monday marked the second straight game a tight whistle affected OC's big men. Bates and Perkins also fouled out of the Colonels' 72-59 win against Henry County Friday in the first round.
“Jacob Bates and Austin Perkins, two guys that have been strengths all year long, just didn't get to play,” Zerhusen said.
Perkins picked up his third and fourth fouls within 20 seconds of each other late in the third quarter as the Pioneers led 44-31.
With the Colonels' best forwards on the bench in foul trouble, it was up to Hawes and fellow guard Connor Hicks to make something happen.
OC fought back and ended the quarter on a 6-0 run to cut the margin to 44-37. Four of those points came from Hawes. Hawes added a free throw and a basket at the beginning of the fourth to make the score 46-40.
“He's such a strong guard and such a strong competitor,” Zerhusen said of Hawes. “I knew this team wasn't going to fold. They fought back and showed the pride and strength they've shown all year long.”
A Taylor Morrison 3, which came after what the OC bench thought was a carrying violation, pushed the Pioneer lead to 49-40.
Hawes answered with a banked hook shot off an offensive rebound to make it 49-42, but then Hicks went down at half-court with a right ankle injury. He had to be helped off the court and over to the bench.
With no Hicks, no Gates and his best big men in foul trouble, Hawes stayed in control. He got one of his seven assists on a Eldridge basket to make it 49-44.
Bates followed two Morrison free throws with a basket to make the score 53-46. Two Clayton Wirth foul shots cut that to 53-48.
Simon's Noah Robinson hit a shot to push the Pioneer lead to 55-48. Hawes answered that with a 3-point play to cut that deficit to 55-51.
Hicks came back in the game and OC used a full-court press to hound Simon ballhandlers in backcourt.
Perkins scored off a feed from Hicks to cut the lead to 55-53. Perkins then stole the ball in backcourt and went to the basket, hitting a shot against contact that appeared to tie the game.
But the official called charging, giving Perkins his fifth and final foul.
“I'm not going to comment too much on that,” Zerhusen said of the call. “But that's a raw deal for a kid to get fouled out on a great play when we're making our comeback. It didn't kill our momentum, but it definitely hurt.”
Still the Pioneers kept shooting themselves in the foot with their 21 turnovers and OC had the ball with the chance to tie or take the lead. Eldridge, who was at the top of the key, found Hawes cutting down the lane and hit him for a layup, tying the game at 55.
Morrison dribbled off his foot with 2:53 to play and the Colonels got the ball back with a chance for their first lead since being up 9-8 in the first quarter. A shot missed, but Hicks sprung to the rim off his bad ankle and tipped it in to give OC a 57-55 lead with 1:41 to play.
“That's what we needed,” Hawes said of Hicks. “I asked him to get better for me and he came through.”
Taylor missed two free throws with 1:02 left, keeping the margin at 57-55 with 1:02 left.
OC got another stop to preserve the lead, and Hicks was dribbling at half-court with about 40 seconds left to play and a two-point lead.
But Morrison reached in and swiped the ball from Hicks, passing ahead to Robinson for a layup to tie the game at 57. Robinson was fouled on the shot, and missed the ensuing free throw that would've given Simon the lead.
But Robinson rebounded his own miss and got the ball to Brennan Kuntz, who was fouled by Taylor. Kuntz hit both his free throws to give the Pioneers the lead back at 59-57.
With less than 10 seconds to play, Hicks missed the shot to tie and Simon's Matt Mullins grabbed the rebound, but slipped and was called for a travel.
Therefore the Colonels got an inbounds pass under their basket with 6.9 seconds left, down 59-57.
The ball was inbounded to Hawes in the corner. The junior penetrated along the baseline but lost his footing. As he stumbled, Kuntz stole the ball.
“I lost my footing,” Hawes said. “Unfortunately I turned it over. I should have shot it.”
Kuntz hit one of two free throws. Hawes' ensuing half-court heave missed off the backboard, and the Colonels' season came to a close.
Hicks scored 12 and Perkins 10 to go along with Hawes' 20.
Kuntz had a team-high 14 points for the Pioneers, followed by Morrison and Robinson, who each scored 11.
It was a disappointing end to the season for an OC team that set out to win Region 8 for the third time in four years. But the Colonels lose only Gates and Perkins, bringing back talented players like Hawes, Hicks and Bates.
“This whole team, we're going to be ready next year,” Hawes said. “It's a learning experience... We're going to come back next year hungry.”
Oldham County – 9, 16, 12, 20 – 57
Simon Kenton – 15, 13, 16, 16 – 60
Oldham County – Hawes 20, Hicks 12, Perkins 10, Eldridge 7, Wirth 5, Bates 2, Taylor 1
Simon Kenton – Kuntz 14, Morrison 11, Robinson 11, Mullins 7, Childers 6, Pracht 6, Vercheak 5