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It may not have been his team’s prettiest game but South Oldham head coach Steve Simpson certainly won’t argue with the results after his team’s gritty defense and flair for the dramatic set the stage for a memorable 72-65 win over rival North Oldham Tuesday night.
It also earned the Dragons the school’s second 29th district championship in as many days.
“This feels awesome,” guard Devonte Jones said. “The pressure is off of us and we’re No. 1 in the district now. But we’re still going to continue to work hard and keep doing our thing.”
That said, early on, North held a stranglehold on momentum, nailing shot after shot to keep the game close.
After playing to a close 22-21 first quarter, the Mustangs finally took control of the game midway through the second quarter as a seven-point swing gave North the biggest lead of the night at 35-30.
It was short lived as South rallied from there, capping a run of their own to enter halftime deadlocked at 37.
That bled into the second half as the Dragons switched to a 1-3-1 out of the break and were able to keep the hot-shooting Mustangs including high-scorer guard David Levitch, at bay.
He did not score in the third quarter.
“I thought that was a big, big, big area,” Simpson said. “I thought our defense was much, much better in the second half. People just don’t practice that much against the (1-3-1). Late in the game we were matching up out of it and I think they were anticipating a trap.”
From there, the Dragons never surrendered their lead.
North had one last chance to steal the momentum in the game’s dying minutes after cutting the lead to two but their comeback fizzled after a pair of failed one and ones.
South Oldham senior Shae Goodlett turned in a memorable performance, clawing his way to a game-high 25 points, but Jones played his best game of the season at the crucial time.
Though he only finished with four points, his impact showed in other ways as disruption in the passing lanes and unselfish ball handling created plenty of opportunities for teammates.
“I felt like I played the best basketball game ever,” Jones said, with a huge smile on his face. “It felt great to play. I was happy to be out there in that atmosphere.”
His coach shared that sentiment.
“He was a big, big spark off the bench,” Simpson said. “I thought he did a great job. I sually rotate Kyle (Young) back in but I told him on the bench, ‘Devonte is rolling right now so we’re going to stay with this.’ He did a great job.”
In addition to locking South into the district’s No. 1 seed, the win also ensures that North Oldham and Oldham County will see each other in the opening round of the district tournament as the No. 2 and 3 seeds, respectively.
The Dragons will play Trimble County.
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South Oldham 22 15 16 19 — 72
North Oldham 21 16 9 19 — 65
South Oldham (14-5) — Goodlett 25, Ma. Haysley 18, Catinna 15, Young11, Jones 4, Griffin 2 , Mi. Haysley 2.
North Oldham (12-8) — Levitch 20, T. Burton 14, Yates 11, Zehnder 9, Cundiff 5, Ca. Cameron 4, Klingeman.
3-pointers — Burton 3, Levitch 3, Catinna 2, Yates 2, Ma. Haysley, Young.