Late in the third quarter Thursday night, McCracken County took an 11-point lead over Oldham County.
In this Sweet Sixteen first-round matchup, such a lopsided score was an anomaly, and the Colonels corrected things in a hurry.
Oldham County scored the last nine points of the third quarter — all in the final 44 seconds of the period — and survived a frenetic fourth quarter to defeat the Mustangs 65-58 in Rupp Arena.
“That was a battle, and we knew it would be,” said Oldham Coach Coy Zerhusen. “McCracken’s a great coached team. They came out and made us earn everything on the offensive end. For a while there, we just weren’t us in terms of the flow of the game. … Thankfully, that third quarter there, we flipped that switch and started making the plays that we can make.
“That was a big, key stretch there at the end of the third quarter.”
Down 42-31, Oldham County got back-to-back three-pointers from Andre Brewer, his first points of the game, and then three free throws from Travis Henderson with 2 seconds left in the period to make it 42-40 going into the fourth quarter.
“Seeing that first shot go in for ‘Dre I think just picked it up,” Zerhusen said. “And the rest of them feed off of it. They want each other to do so well. They got probably more excited than ‘Dre did when he hit the shot, and it picked up the rest of them.”
Added Oldham County senior Zach Larimore: “I think that’s what basically won us the game, because it got us going again.”
Brewer’s and-one with 7:00 left in the game cut McCracken County’s advantage to 44-43, and it was a one-possession game for pretty much the rest of the night. The two teams traded baskets and big plays throughout the fourth quarter, and Henderson’s steal and layup with 54 seconds left finally gave the Colonels a 60-55 lead.
McCracken County cut the lead to three points with 16 seconds left, but Oldham hit four free throws from there to set the final score. The Colonels were 8-for-10 from the field and 8-for-10 from the line in the decisive fourth quarter.
Larimore led all scorers with 20 points, Henderson added 18 and a team-high seven rebounds, and Jackson Gibson chipped in with 14 points, 10 of those coming in the fourth quarter. Brewer, the Colonels’ spark in the third quarter, ended up with nine points, four rebounds, six assists and three steals. All four played at least 30 minutes Thursday night.
Sophomore star Jackson Sivills led the way for McCracken County, tallying 17 points and nine rebounds while blocking three shots. Wes Belt added 14 points and was 4-for-6 from three-point range.
Next up for Oldham County is a matchup Friday evening with 10th Region champion Campbell County.