To put it simply, Paul Dunbar couldn't stop Anderson County's C.J. Penny.
The senior guard scored 26 points, including 20 in the first half, to lead No. 23 Anderson County to a 60-47 road victory over No. 17 Dunbar.
Penny came out firing early and often. He shot 9-for-16 from the field in the first half with a mix of post moves and fall-away jumpers that left Dunbar (13-6) searching for answers.
"We tried to get into a zone and contain C.J., but he's a monster of a player," Dunbar Coach Carl "Redd" Hutchinson said. "He's one of the best out there right now. We knew C.J. and (Jacob) Russell would cause a lot of problems for us."
Penny had six early points and Anderson County (17-5) jumped out to a 17-12 lead at the end of the first quarter.
A three-pointer from Dunbar guard Tod Lanter cut the Bearcats' lead to two, 25-23, with 3:43 to play in the second quarter. But Dunbar couldn't get any closer. Anderson County took a 12-point lead into halftime when Penny rattled home a three-pointer with just a second remaining.
"In the first half I came out and felt good; we got off to a good start," Penny said. "The second half they left my teammates open and we found the open man all night."
In a game where Anderson County never trailed, the only remaining bit of drama came in the third quarter. Penny picked up his second and third fouls in just more than a minute, and he had to go to the bench with 4:46 to play in the period and the Bearcats holding a nine-point lead.
But Dunbar couldn't take advantage and Anderson County showed patience against the Bulldogs' zone, chewing up over one minute of game time in a single possession. When Penny returned with 2:16 to play, the lead remained at nine, 45-36.
Anderson County's defense bothered Dunbar all game, holding the Bulldogs to less than 40 percent shooting. But the visitor's big advantage came on the glass as they grabbed 13 offensive rebounds and won the boards 34-24.
Dunbar's Tyler Rogers was held to 11 points, and four came late in the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach.
Anderson County Coach Glen Drury said his team's defensive focus was on Rogers and Nick Hudson, who had just three points.
"We felt like if we could contain them, we'd be in the game with them," he said. "I thought our defense was excellent here tonight."
Russell finished with 14 points and senior Landon Jenkins had 12 for Anderson County.
Lanter led the Bulldogs with 12 points, all on three-pointers.
Anderson County's nine-game winning streak is its longest of the season. And as the favorite to win the 8th Region, Drury said his team is hitting its stride at just the right time.
"We definitely have a shot, and we'll have to play well. We can't just come in and play," he said. "We play easy together and I enjoy coaching this bunch because they're low maintenance in the way they play together."
Anderson Co. 60, Paul Dunbar 47
Anderson Co. (18-4) — Wa.Ruggles 2, Wi.Ruggles 6, Russell 14, Jenkins 12, Penny 26.
Paul Dunbar (13-6) — Hudson 3, Morton 2, Lanter 12, Clay 3, Rogers 11, With 10, Johnson 6.
Anderson Co. 17 20 10 13—60
Paul Dunbar 12 13 11 11—47