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SOMS girls basketball continues dominant run

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By Sam Draut

South Oldham Middle School (SOMS) girls basketball proved why it’s compared to the UConn women’s basketball program. The Lady Dragons defeated Shelby East 45-17 Thursday Nov. 29 in Goshen to win its third straight Mid-Bluegrass Conference Championship and complete an undefeated season.

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Ella Morrison and Natalie Betz each had 16 points while Betsy Huckaby added nine points as SOMS won its 37th straight game dating back to last season.

“This group has been extremely hard working and they bought in my system and the way we wanted to play,” SOMS coach Keith Blackburn said. “They are very unselfish, they share the ball. They aren’t worried about who gets the spotlight on any given night. It’s just a complete team effort. This group is phenomenal. They have great basketball IQs.”

The Lady Dragons high-pressure full-court defense helped build an early lead. Morrison had the game’s first basket a minute-and-a-half into the first quarter. Following a turnover created by the SOMS defense near midcourt, Morrison made a 3-pointer to force a Shelby East timeout.

Huckaby hit a pair of free throws to cap the opening 7-0 run. Morrison and Aliya Dickamore each had baskets in the final minutes of the period to give SOMS a 13-5 lead at the end of the first quarter.

While the Lady Dragon defense continued to give Shelby East fits, Morrison scored twice, the second coming off an offensive rebound, to extend the advantage to 17-5. Huckaby made a 3-pointer midway through the second quarter following a Shelby East turnover.

“Coach Blackburn is really big on defense everyday at practice,” Morrison said. “We run defensive drills. Our press usually works really well.”

Betz didn’t allow Shelby East any opportunity for a comeback in the second half as she scored 11 points in the third quarter.

During the 21-0 unbeaten season, the Lady Dragons defeated opponents by an average margin of 28.3 points. Defense was the crux of SOMS’s domination.

The team begins every season working on its defense.

Every game, the goal is to hold their opponents under 20 points. The Lady Dragons held their opponents to 20 points or less in 17 games, including keeping their opponents to single-digits four times.

Blackburn said his team had more than 20 quarters this season where it didn’t allow a point.

“They thrive on defense,” Blackburn said. “With playing as fast-paced as we do, it increases our chances to speed the game up.”

Zada Chan, Betz, Morrison and Huckaby each averaged more than three steals per game for a team that finished the season averaging 17.7 steals and 15.9 deflections per game.

Blackburn, who had previously coached for the Eminence High School boys basketball team, thought his coaching days were over when he went into administration at South Oldham High School. When the former SOMS girls basketball coach left prior to the season starting in 2016, Blackburn decided to resume coaching because his daughter, Brynna Blackburn, was an eighth grader on the team.

Three years and three championships later, SOMS is on an impressive run with back-to-back 20 win seasons while rewriting the school’s record book.

“It’s been phenomenal,” Blackburn said. “Our motto is 100 percent 100 percent of the time. That’s what I expect from them and they know that’s what I expect from them. In practice we are going to make each other better. If you aren’t pushing your teammates you aren’t helping them get better, so in practice they get after each other just like a game.”

Along with its ever-present pressure defense, SOMS played well offensively with good passing.

“We have had a lot of talent on this team since sixth grade, this summer we worked as a team,” Betz said. “We played in the offseason and it really brought us together as a team.”

With just six losses in three seasons, Blackburn, who is 59-6 at SOMS, has provided consistency and direction for a team that has answered with wins.

“Having the same coach, you get to know it and the team really well,” Huckaby said. “It’s like a family.”

 

Roster: Betsy Huckaby, Ella Morrison, Natalie Betz, Zada Chan, Natalie Flynn, Aliyah Dickamore, Chloe John, Grace Ashkettle, Biz Gold, Gracie Billion, Hannah Richardson and Eva Larson.

Coaches: Keith Blackburn, Michelle Brickey and Kayla Long