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Entering Friday night’s semifinal matchup in the Best in Hoops, Central High School hadn’t surrendered more than 60 points in a game.
It took the Oldham County Colonels all of three quarters to reach that mark, coming out of the gates firing to jump up 41-33 at the break.
The Colonel’s pace didn’t slow in the second half either, as the tandem of guards Jacob Kopp and Sam Gruber kept the Yellowjackets at bay with timely plays down the stretch.
None would be bigger than a clutch 3-point play to break Central’s back in the fourth quarter.
With the Yellowjackets threatening late in the game, Gruber managed to slide into a passing lane and pick off the ball in the open court. On his drive to the basket, he was able to draw contact and the foul, converting an acrobatic And-1 to push the Colonels’ lead to 79-67.
That said, though Gruber finished the night with 15 points, Kopp was its biggest star, adding a double double of 21 points, a game high, and 11 rebounds to lead the Colonels.
He’s been especially important as of late, shaking off a rough start that included a demotion to the bench, to become one of the team’s leading scorers
“Jacob is just so hard on himself,” coach Jason Holland said. “I knew if I challenged him, he’d respond. And that’s just the maturity of a senior. He’s used to the big games and I’m just so proud of him. When he rebounds, we’re very, very good.”
Gruber and Kopp weren’t the only ones to put on a show though as four of the five starters from Friday night reached double figures — sophomore Connor Hicks would finish with 8 points.
That balance is part of what makes this team dangerous Holland noted. With so many ways to attack, teams have hard time deciding what to try and take away.
“Coming into this tournament, we had three guys averaging 10 points and two guys averaging 8,” Holland said. “We don’t have a guy that’s going to average 20. We’re just not designed for that. It’s an offense that is very opportunistic. We’ll take advantage of what we think is there.”
Kopp agreed, saying that that uncertainty makes it easier on each of them.
“Coach Holland always says there’s going to be a mismatch on the floor, whether that’s me or Garrett Masters or Sam Gruber or Anthony Lape,” Kopp said. “They try and focus on one player and we always have a player that can step out and do some work.”
The Colonels got help from more than just the starting five though, as sixth man Anthony Johnson kept the ball rolling in the second unit as well, sparking the team with 11 points off the bench.
With the win, Oldham County advanced to the championship game on Dec. 22 against DuPont Manual.
The game was played after press time. Check oldhamera.com for game coverage.
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