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NEW CASTLE – In a game that never lacked for high drama, Shelby County’s defense dominated the closing minutes of the third quarter as the Rockets came from behind to beat South Oldham 76-70 Tuesday in the Eighth Region finals.
Shelby County forced four straight turnovers and converted on all four as they went from a 50-43 deficit to lead 51-50 at the close the third quarter.
“That was the ball game right there,” SOHS coach Steve Simpson said. “Those turnovers in the third quarter, we had a little spell where we didn’t take care of the ball and it gave them the momentum.”
SOHS, which opened up a 12-point lead in the opening minutes of the second half, went up 50-43 on a jump hook in the lane from Chris Schumm with 2:27 left in the third quarter.
From there, Shelby County’s press took over.
With 1:34 left, Boomer Beckley stole Carson Fields’ inbounds pass and laid it in to cut the lead to 50-45.
The Rockets forced SOHS’ Austin Bowman into a backcourt turnover that led to a pair of free throws from Donovan Johnson.
Johnson then stripped SOHS’ Brice Jewett and drew a foul. Johnson, who led Shelby County with 23 points, hit two more free throws to cut the Dragons’ lead to 50-49. The Rockets went up 51-50 when Beckley stole a Dillon Bullock pass and hit a layup with 23 seconds left.
SOHS would tie the game three times in the fourth quarter, but the Dragons never regained the lead.
“You have to give Shelby credit there,” Simpson said. “They brought a lot of pressure and then scored off it.”
The last tie came with 4:41 left in the game when Schumm hit a six-footer from the corner to knot the score at 58. Johnson and Cache Tomlinson each hit two free throws and Johnson added a follow shot to put the Rockets up for good at 64-58 with 2:54 left in the game.
Shelby County then hit five of seven free throws sandwiched around two inside baskets from Darryl Hicks to hold the Dragons off.
Utilizing a patient offense and holding their own on the boards thanks to Schumm and Casey Jackson, the Dragons built a 37-30 halftime lead.
SOHS got a big scare with 1:31 left in the first half when Jackson snared and rebound and took a hard fall hitting his head on the floor.
The fall opened a big gash above his left eye forcing him out of the game.
Jackson was bandaged at halftime and came out smokin’ to start the second half. He hit a three-pointer from the top of the key and followed that with a drive in the lane that gave SOHS its biggest lead at 42-30.
Jackson finished with 22 points to lead SOHS.
“Just a really gutty performance from him,” Simpson said. “There was no way he was not going to play. He had blood running in his eyes and all he wanted was someone to wipe it away.”
The loss ended a strong season from the Dragons as they set a school record for wins and finished the year with a 27-6 record reaching the regional finals for the second time in school history.
“The kids gave a great effort and they did all season,” Simpson said. “I just thank God I had the chance to coach them. I feel very fortunate as a coach to have been around this group.”
SHELBY COUNTY - 16 14 21 25 76 - Donovan Johnson 23, Darryl Hicks 22, Nigel Beech 6, Boomer Beckley 10, Eric Standifer 6, Cache Tomlinson 8, Tavis Elzy 1, 76.
SOHS - 16 21 13 20 70 - Casey Jackson 22, Brice Jewett 12, Austin Bowman 9, Chris Schumm 13, Carson Fields 4, Cory Dogan 5, Dylan Gordon 3, Dillon Bullock 2, 70.
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