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KHSAA Boys Sweet 16 Quarterfinal Preview: South Oldham preps for height challenge of South Laurel

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By Elliott Pratt

 LEXINGTON – South Oldham doesn’t have much time for celebration before it must shift its focus to the next challenge.

Although Thursday night’s 58-34 victory over Owensboro Catholic did merit postgame festivities as the school’s first Sweet 16 victory, the Dragons quickly hit the reset button Friday morning.

“It was fun and exciting making history for South Oldham,” senior Jacob Bray said Friday morning. “It felt good.”

South Oldham will face South Laurel in Friday’s quarterfinals at 8 p.m. at Rupp Arena. The Cardinals defeated Christian County 53-50 Thursday afternoon as Jared Grubb scored 20 points and the game-winning 3-pointer with 1:17 to play.

South Laurel (28-6) handed Christian County its first loss to an in-state team this season despite committing 20 turnovers.

Caleb Taylor, a 6-foot-8 senior center, blocked three shots while grabbing seven rebounds and scoring 11 points.

Taylor’s size could present the biggest problem for an all-guard South Oldham lineup, but it’s not the first time South has faced a player of Taylor’s size and caliber.

Twice this season, the Dragons faced Mr. Kentucky Basketball Carson Williams of Owen County. Williams scored 40 points in South’s regular season loss in Owenton, but the Dragons won when it mattered in the first round of the Eighth Region tournament.

Williams still dominated the floor with 38 points and 15 boards, but South Oldham shut down his supporting cast on their way to a region title.

“Maybe we can grow a couple of these guys tonight,” South Oldham coach Steve Simpson said Thursday night. “We’ve faced some big guys. We’re going to try to run him and see how it works. We’ll zone him and put two or three around him…We may try to guard him the way we did [Carson Williams]. He had 38 in both games we played him so I’m sure that guy will be excited about it.”

South Laurel lost to Owen County on Dec. 5 76-74 in double overtime where Taylor scored 27 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.

Simpson decided to give Owen County coach Devin Duvall a call Thursday night for a little insight.

“I actually called Devin Duvall last night and we kind of talked about it and he said, ‘If y’all play them like you played us up and down, that would be a good strategy,’” Simpson added.

Taylor averages a double-double for the Cardinals at 14.5 and 10 rebounds per game, but Grubb leads the team with a 15 point average.

Andrew Griffin averages 10.3 and Ryan Anders chips in 7.7 points per game for the 13th Region champions.

South Laurel, the 13th Region champions ranked at No. 13 in the Courier-Journal’s Litkenhous Ratings, shot 50 percent from the field and 7 of 10 from the free throw line in the upset win over Christian County.

South Oldham (29-5) hopes its own shooting cleans up Friday night after shooting 9 of 28 from 3-point range and 39 percent from the field against Owensboro Catholic.

Finding the hoop will be tough against a tall South Laurel team who’s starting lineup stands at 6-foot-1, 6-foot-2, two 6-foot-4 players and Taylor at 6-foot-8.

The Dragons hope their speed on the floor puts the Cardinals in a position to rely on its bench. South Oldham had 26 points from its bench with Jacob Bray scoring 11 and Dyllon Hoover putting up 10 points and grabbing five steals.

Bray scored all of his 11 points in the second half and tied for a team high in scoring with Grant Williams.

South Laurel had just eight points from its bench against Christian County.

“We have a couple of guys not do anything and then come out at halftime and knock down shots,” Simpson said. “Hopefully we can get them running foul line to foul line to take some quick shots. Maybe we can turn it into a track meet and see.”