The “S” that Superman wears across his chest — the coat of arms for the House of El and a symbol of hope on Krypton — is stitched into the back of South Oldham’s home jerseys.
For South Oldham, it stands for “shoot” as much as it does “South.” The Dragons fired up 32 three-point shots on their way to a 58-34 victory over Owensboro Catholic in the final first-round game of the 99th Whitaker Bank/KHSAA Boys’ Sweet 16 basketball tournament Thursday at Rupp Arena.
Grant Williams and Jacob Bray each scored 11 points for South Oldham, which won its first state-tournament game after losing to Hopkinsville in its only other trips in 2013 and 2014.
South Oldham entered the tournament having made a state-record 355 threes, 27 more than Southwestern made setting a recors in 2005. The Dragons connected on just nine of its long-range shots, but that was enough to keep the Aces at bay for much of the game.
Coach Steve Simpson was able to rest his starters late in the fourth quarter, a benefit given the quick turnaround for the quarterfinals. The Dragons will play South Laurel at 8 p.m. Friday.
“We were wanting to do that sooner, but I have a lot of respect for Coach (Tim) Riley and his team,” Simpson said. “And I was afraid to completely pull ’em as early as we might coulda. But any time you can get an opportunity to rest your starters in the state tournament, then it’s definitely an advantage for the next night.”
Owensboro Catholic climbed to within six points at halftime behind two free throws and a layup by Ray Zuberer. The senior was a co-recipient of the Wah Wah Jones award for outstanding multi-sport athletes, along with Lafayette’s Landon Young, announced earlier this week.
“I thought we were lucky to be down six,” Owensboro Catholic Coach Tim Riley said with a laugh.
But South Oldham came out of the locker room on an 8-0 run to help snuff Owensboro Catholic’s hopes of winning.
The Aces were plagued by stats uncharacteristic of its year, Riley said. They committed 18 turnovers, gave up 12 steals, shot 25.5 percent for the game and went seven of 16 from the free-throw line. How bad was it? Luke Hayden, an 80-percent charity shooter, was 0-for-5.
“They switched defenses constantly and we never got in a real flow,” Riley said. “And the bottom line is, it’s hard to play good basketball when you don’t make shots.”
It was win No. 300 for Simpson at South Oldham. Caleb Taylor, the 6-foot-8 13th Region Player of the Year at South Laurel, stands between he and his team for win No. 301.
The Dragons have had design a game plan for one star big man twice this season; they split their meetings with Carson Williams and Owen County, including an 81-76 victory in the first round of the 8th Region tournament.
Simpson joked that “maybe we can grow a couple of these guys tonight.” He’ll try to run Taylor around and play zone against the Cardinals.
“In the short period of time, we may try to guard (Taylor) the same way that we did (Williams),” Simpson said. “He had 38 in both games we played so I’m sure that guy will be excited about it.”