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GOSHEN – Facing a South Oldham team that plays six senior guards, the two best guards on the court Friday night were two Oldham County juniors.
Hayden Hawes scored a game-high 27 points and Connor Hicks added 20 as OC beat South 74-67 at North Oldham Friday to win its fourth straight District 29 title.
The Colonels (22-6) will face either Collins, Henry County or Simon Kenton in the first round of next week’s Region 8 tournament at Henry County. The draw to determine the region bracket is scheduled for Sunday afternoon.
OC won its fourth straight district crown under a rookie head coach, Coy Zerhusen, and on the backs of players like Hawes, Austin Perkins and Jordan Gates who didn’t have much varsity experience before this year.
“We had a lot of doubt coming into this season,” said Perkins, the senior forward who scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds Friday. “Everyone was saying, ‘Oh, it’s a new coach, it’s a new era,’ but you know, it’s the same stuff.
“…’Z’ just told us we need to focus on all the strong points we have as a team… It’s just a great feeling coming in here as a 2-seed and handling business tonight.”
Zerhusen had been an assistant under former coach Jason Holland before taking over this season, and knew the talent the Colonels had on their JV and freshman levels over recent years. Still, a 22-6 record and district crown has exceeded a lot of expectations.
“At the beginning of the year if you had told me this, I would’ve been shocked, but happy,” Zerhusen said. “It’s something that these guys have come together this year. They’ve done exactly what we’ve asked them to do as a coaching staff, and that’s coming together and doing it as a team.”
South (19-4) beat OC 62-58 in January in the teams’ regular season meeting and was the No. 1 seed going into this tournament. But the Dragons struggled offensively Friday, which led to some lapses in defensive execution, coach Steve Simpson said.
Michael Griffin and Drew Greenwood scored 17 points each for South, which will meet Shelby County, Owen County or Grant County in the first round of the region tournament.
“We didn’t shoot it well, and when we don’t shoot it well it affects both ends of the floor,” Simpson said. “We had some looks, missed some easy ones, missed a lot of free throws. We let poor defense and poor shooting affect every area of our game and as a result, I don’t think we did anything really well.”
The teams were pretty even early on, tied at 19 midway through the second quarter.
OC then went on a 10-2 run that featured six points from Hicks, including a basket off an offensive rebound that made the score 29-21. The Colonel lead stayed between 4 and 13 points the rest of the night.
Hicks, who also tallied five rebounds, had a 20-point night for the Colonels just one night after being held to three points in OC’s 66-48 district semifinal win over North Oldham.
“That’s something Connor can do for us,” Zerhusen said. “He gets so caught up emotionally that sometimes it’s hard for him to settle down.
“He hit some big ones for us tonight. He’s capable. He’s as athletic and strong a guy as there is in this region and him and Hayden, they’re a tough two to handle.”
Hawes was in control from the beginning of the game. The Colonels’ junior point guard scored eight points in the first quarter, including two off offensive rebounds.
Hawes, who went to South his freshman year, finished with 27 points and seven rebounds and was named tournament MVP. Coincidentally his girlfriend, Lady Colonel senior Ashley McMurtrey, was named MVP of the girls tournament.
“The capability Hayden has, he can be a good one,” Hicks said. “He looks a little small, but we saw this whole tournament, he gets in there and shoots layups, layups, layups.”
South cut OC’s lead to 66-61 with a minute left on a Greenwood basket.
Hawes pushed the lead to 68-61 with two free throws. Then Gates stole the ball from South point guard Jonathan Blair and passed ahead to Hawes, who was fouled.
Hawes hit another free throw to make the Colonels’ lead 69-61. The Dragons never cut the lead closer than six points the rest of the way.
Gates finished with nine points, three assists and three rebounds for OC. Drew Bullock and Kyle Young tallied 10 points each for South.
“Everybody did great,” Hawes said. “I’m proud of my team.”
Oldham County – 14, 15, 22, 23 – 74
South Oldham – 16, 8, 19, 24 – 67
Oldham County – Hawes 27, Hicks 20, Perkins 10, Gates 9, Bates 5, McLarty 3
South Oldham – Greenwood 17, Griffin 17, Bullock 10, Young 10, Blair 5, Horsey 4, McWilliams 4
All-District Tournament Team
-Jon Jon Henry
Tournament MVP - Hayden Hawes, Oldham County