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GOSHEN – Oldham County didn't have all its pieces available Thursday night, but it still got the job done.
Guards Hayden Hawes and Jordan Gates scored 18 and 17 points each and the Colonels advanced in the district tournament with a 66-48 over North Oldham on the Mustangs’ home floor.
The win clinches OC (21-6) a spot in next week’s Region 8 tournament and a spot opposite South Oldham in Friday night’s District 29 championship game. North (11-17) ends its year on a five-game losing streak after beating South Feb. 10.
The Colonels’ win came without Austin Wills, the senior forward who’s no longer with the program due to a violation of team rules. A variety of OC players filled in to make up for that lost production Thursday, coach Coy Zerhusen said.
“No matter what’s going on, on the court, off the court, our goal doesn’t change,” Zerhusen said. “Our guys understood that.
“We’ve had that mentality all year long. We’re not a team that’s based off one or two guys. We’re a team.”
North challenged OC’s team for the first three quarters. The game was tied 11-11 after one quarter. The Colonels led 25-22 at halftime and just 37-34 with 1:54 to play in the third.
That’s when OC delivered its knockout blow, going on a 22-6 run over the next eight minutes to seize grasp of the contest.
The Colonels started that stretch with a quick 7-0 burst out of a timeout Zerhusen called with 1:54 left in the third quarter.
Gates hit a step-back jumper to make it 39-34. A Griffin McLarty free throw made the lead six. A Gates steal and layup pushed the lead to 42-34. A Hawes layup off a nifty pass from forward Austin Perkins made the lead 44-34. North never cut the margin any closer than eight points the rest of the way.
During that stretch it became apparent the Colonels’ defensive pressure they’d applied all night was having its desired effects, Gates said.
“Our game plan the whole season has been just to wear teams down defensively,” Gates said. “Even if it’s not in the first quarter, by the third quarter they’re exhausted because we’ve been pressing the whole game.”
The Mustangs were especially vulnerable to a pressure defense, as they’ve spent the last few weeks battling injuries. Point guard Jon Jon Henry and center Adam Klingeman were both on the court Thursday but looked far from 100 percent, fighting through calf and ankle injuries, respectively.
North turned the ball over 27 times, compared to just five assists. By comparison, OC tallied 16 turnovers and 13 assists.
“Coach told us to come out and have fun today,” Hawes said. “We did and fortunately we got the win.”
North also had trouble keeping up on the boards, being out-rebounded 30-23, and keeping up defensively. Because OC has three guards that can penetrate and score, Gates, Hawes and Connor Hicks, North had to choose on whom to focus its pressure, Zerhusen said.
Hawes was held to two points in the first half and Hicks was held to three points for the night. But Gates was left alone on several occasions and took advantage.
“Jordan did a good job of exploiting that,” Zerhusen said. “But it was our spacing and our aggressiveness and he came out and he did what a senior needs to do in a game like that.”
Henry led the Mustangs with 12 points. Klingeman scored 10 in his final game. North’s other starting seniors, Justin Cundiff and Trevor Burton, scored five and four points each.
Perkins added nine points and 10 rebounds for OC Thursday. Sophomore forward Jacob Bates came off the bench to tally eight points and nine rebounds. Hicks was held to three points but added a game-high five assists.
The Colonels have clinched their trip to the region tournament and now turn their attention to their longtime rival, South. The Dragons won the regular season meeting 62-58 thanks to a go-ahead 3-pointer from Michael Griffin in the final seconds.
OC has plenty of motivation for the game that starts at 8 p.m. Friday, the players said, first from blowing a late lead in that regular season meeting. Other motivation comes from not wanting to surrender a streak of three straight district championships.
“We’re definitely anxious to see what tomorrow has to bring,” Gates said. “It’ll be one for the record books.”
North Oldham – 11, 11, 16, 12 – 48
Oldham County – 11, 14, 19, 22 – 66
North Oldham – Henry 12, Klingeman 10, C. Burton 5, Cundiff 5, Gibbs 5, T. Burton 4, Hammock 4, Wheeler 2, Heckenberg 1
Oldham County – Hawes 18, Gates 17, Perkins 9, Bates 8, Wirth 5, Hicks 3, McLarty 3, Taylor 2, Eldridge 1