Injury Advantage

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With North's Rowan hobbled, OCHS pulls away for 64-52 win

By Jason Stamm

BUCKNER — A slight misstep on another player’s foot is all it took.

            Until North Oldham boys’ basketball senior center Devon Rowan came down on another player’s foot with 2:05 remaining in the second quarter, the Mustangs had control of the game at Oldham County and led 21-18.

            Rowan returned from the play, in which he sprained his left ankle, but NOHS never looked the same again.

            The Colonels ended the first half on a 9-4 run and harassed the Mustangs defensively, holding off a late charge for a 64-52 win. The win keeps OCHS in the hunt for the top seed in the 29th district tournament.

            Rowan had 9 points before the injury, but though he played the whole second half, he finished with 11 points on a taped left ankle.

            “It was tough because honestly, it’s hard to jump,” Rowan said. “You’re always worrying about people putting their foot under you or something like that, coming down on it. Then, lateral movements, it kinda tightened up.”

            The Colonels took advantage, ratcheting up the tempo on defense with full-court and half-court presses.

            “When we sped the game up, it bothered ‘em,” OCHS Coach Jason Holland said. “Even when Devon ‘s in the game, they did not like us coming up and getting after them. We wanted the game to be fast and not in the half-court.”

            The Colonels’ used a balanced attack, led by 16 points from Kerry Smith, to get out to a quick start in the second half. OCHS turned a 27-24 halftime lead into a 48-33 advantage early in the fourth quarter.

            “We had a lot more confidence,” Smith said. “We knew if we got down, we were gonna have to scrap and claw our way back in. Coach got on us how we hadn’t played the last couple of games, with our intensity. We picked it up and stepped on the gas pedal.”

            Though he fouled out with 2:29 remaining in the game, senior forward Tyler Wesley took advantage of Rowan’s tepidness upon his return in the second half. Wesley finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

            “In the first quarter, I think he got the best of me, because he’s bigger than me,” Wesley said. “I was a little intimidated. But after he got hurt, I tried to take advantage of my quickness on him and I did pretty well. I could tell he was a step slower and it was just enough to where I had an advantage.”

            NOHS picked up its intensity following a technical foul on Coach David Henley early in the fourth quarter. But OCHS used a few timely plays to maintain the lead.

            With two minutes left in the game, junior forward Jacob Kopp missed the second of two free throws. But the rebound caromed off Rowan after three Mustangs charged for the ball and Colonels’ senior forward Alante Flores scooped it up for an easy layup to put OCHS up 57-46.

            Even junior guard David Levitch, an 88 percent free throw shooter, uncharacteristically missed four free throws, two coming back to back. He still finished with a game-high 25 points.

            “When Devon went out, everyone just got shocked,” Levitch said. “We just feel asleep and gave up way too many rebounds.”

            Though Rowan had just two points after his injury, Henley said his play in the post played a big role in keeping the visitors in the game.

            “He just does so many things for us,” Henley said. “Against a press, he can come up and throw over the top of it or we can find him. He breaks the press, he rebounds, he guards, just everything. That hurt us but we gave up 21 second-chance points and that absolutely killed us.”

            If the Mustangs defeat South Oldham Jan. 31 and Trimble County Feb. 2, there will be a three-way tie for the top seed in the district between NOHS, SOHS and OCHS. The tie-breaker is then based on the highest rating in the Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Rating which rates every high school basketball team in Kentucky.

            But Holland said he doesn’t worry about what hasn’t happened yet.

            OCHS travels to Grant County at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, followed by a trip to Martha Layne Collins Jan. 20, while NOHS hosts Franklin County at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow.

            “For me, it’s all about our next two because they’re both on the road,” Holland said. “That means you’ve gotta play more as a family, show some toughness. That’s what I wanna see, toughness in road games. It’s about how well we respond because it will show growth from last week.”

            And it also helps to take advantage of a given situation.

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