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NEW CASTLE – In the first three quarterfinal games of the boys Region 8 tournament, the favorites struggled early but won in the end.
District 29 champ Oldham County repeated that trend in the fourth and last quarterfinal of the tournament Friday night.
OC trailed host Henry County well into the third quarter Friday before pulling away and winning 72-59 at the Roy. L. Winchester Gymnasium. The Colonels advanced to the region semifinals, where they'll meet Simon Kenton at 8:30 p.m. Monday.
Hayden Hawes and Connor Hicks led OC with 14 points each, with Hicks scoring all of his in the second half.
“A lot of people came into this game thinking we were going to blow them out,” Hawes said. “I think that got to our heads. We didn't really execute as well as we should have. But then the fourth quarter came around, we woke up, started executing.”
Henry (20-11) led the Colonels 29-28 at halftime, 33-28 early in the third quarter and 43-41 late in the third. It was at that point OC (23-6) launched an 11-0 run that put the game in the Colonels' grasp for good.
Hicks hit a 3-pointer to put OC up 44-43. Reserve guard Darrius Taylor scored on a drive to the hoop to make the score 46-43 going into the fourth.
Hicks scored to push the lead to 48-43. That was followed by a Hawes steal of the Wildcat inbounds pass. He dished to Taylor, who hit a layup to make the score 50-43. A pair of Hicks free throws made the Colonel lead 52-43.
OC applied more full-court pressure during that stretch, Taylor said. The Colonels forced Henry into 22 turnovers Friday.
“Our full-court pressure, it's hard to beat, especially when you have two guards up front putting pressure on them,” said Taylor, who scored eight points off the bench. “They start throwing long passes. Us 'linebackers' intercept them. It shakes a lot of teams.”
The difference makers for OC Friday came off the bench while the starters battled foul trouble. Austin Perkins and Hicks both fouled out, while Griffin McLarty picked up four fouls.
Jacob Bates came off the bench to score nine points and tally three assists and two blocks, before also fouling out. Taylor and Wirth scored eight points each, with Wirth grabbing three steals. Forward Kyle Eldridge had three points and four rebounds and played post defense when Perkins was off the bench with foul trouble.
“They had to play more minutes tonight than they were used to, but they were ready for it,” Colonel coach Coy Zerhusen said of his bench. “We talk about the old cliché that they're not juniors or sophomores at the end of the year -- they've moved up. They stepped up big time for us.”
Hawes, the MVP of last week's District 29 tournament, dished seven assists Friday. Jordan Gates had four assists. Hicks grabbed eight rebounds and three steals despite battling foul trouble.
“Physically, there aren't many kids in this region that can get in front of him and stop him,” Zerhusen said of Hicks. “He's a heck of a ballplayer. It starts with him rebounding, it starts with him on defense and that gets the rest of his game going.”
Austin Young led the Wildcats with 13 points Friday. Chase Howard scored nine and Dakota Estes, Landon New and Robbie Cruse each scored seven.
OC will now turn the page and get ready for Simon Kenton, who it beat 72-65 on Feb. 7 in Buckner.
The Pioneers beat Shelby County 76-69 in the first quarterfinal game Friday.
“We've faced them earlier and they're a really good team – really good fundamentally,” Hawes said. “We'll be ready for them.”
Oldham County – 15, 13, 18, 26 – 72
Henry County – 13, 16, 14, 16 – 59
Oldham County – Hawes 14, Hicks 14, Bates 9, Taylor 8, Wirth 8, Gates 6, McLarty 6, Perkins 5, Eldridge 3
Henry County – Young 13, Howard 9, Estes 7, Jameson 7, New 7, Cruse 4, West 4, Aneszko 3, Jeffries 3, Wundrak 2