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The Owen County Rebels entered the Eighth Region All ‘A’ Classic last week with a chance to make history. No other Rebel team had ever won back-to-back titles.
Owen County won the tournament in 1996 and also in 2003 but were not able to duplicate the feat the following season. In fact, in 2004 the Rebels lost in the first round.
Saturday night at Williamstown, the Rebels punched their ticket back to Frankfort with a 69-47 win over Walton-Verona in the championship game.
The opportunity to win back-to-back titles was not lost on players or coaches throughout the week. “(Owen County High School Head Boys Basketball Coach Devin) Duvall reminded us of it during the week,” Owen County junior Jarrod Ball said following the win.
Owen County did not have an easy road to the title game. They had to beat a pair of teams that had knocked them off the last time they played.
The first obstacle was Gallatin County. The two teams met less than a week after the Wildcats defeated the Rebels in Owenton. The two teams played a physical contest that saw Owen County edge out a 47-42 victory.
The win sent Owen County into the semifinals where they matched up against Eminence.
In December, it was the Warriors who made 15 3-pointers to win 67-65.
After a slow start, Owen County ran away with a 59-44 win that propelled them in the championship game where they would meet the Bearcats.
It was the second year in a row the two teams had met to decide the Eighth Region championship.
Owen County won last year 65-58.
In the championship game, Walton-Verona scored the first three points only to be followed by the Rebels scoring the next 10 to go on top 10-3. The run caused the Bearcats to call a timeout.
From there, Owen County used its size advantage to dominate the paint on both ends of the floor.
The Rebels led 21-13 and were able to extend the lead in the second quarter.
Owen County led 35-21 late in the second quarter before Walton-Verona scored five of the final 8 points of the half to cut the lead to 37-26 at intermission.
Things got interesting in the third quarter.
Walton-Verona cut the deficit to 43-36 and could have gotten closer but Tanner Moeves was able to convert just one of four free throws to make the score 43-37.
Ball made a lay-up with less than a minute to play in the third quarter to extend the lead to 45-37 and send Owen County on its way.
In the fourth quarter, the Rebels continued to extend the lead and left no doubt about the final outcome.
When the final buzzer sounded, players, coaches and a large number of Rebel fans celebrated another championship.
The game marks the sixth time in the last seven games the Owen County defense had held a team to less than 50 points. Owen County is now 15-3 on the season. The win total is the second best of any Eighth Region team this year.
Zach Ripy, Justin Shelton and Hunter Trenary were named to the all-tournament team.
Carson Williams was named most valuable player. The freshman scored 18 points and pulled down 13 rebounds against the Bearcats.
Last season, Carson’s older brother Sawyer won the same award.
Carson Williams said sharing that honor with a sibling makes it extra special.
“It feels pretty good after Sawyer got it last year,” said Williams
For Duvall, winning back-to-back titles was very gratifying on a personal level.
“It’s great especially being a hometown boy,” Duvall said.
The win gives Duvall two Eighth Region All ‘A’ championships.
His predecessor Gran Mefford won the previous two titles.
The coach said the win was big for the program as well.
“It’s huge,” Duvall said. “We’ve been able to do some special things the last few years.”
The win means Owen County will advance to play in the Touchstone Energy All ‘A’ State Tournament in Frankfort. All games will be played at the Frankfort Civic Center beginning on Thursday. Owen County is scheduled to play Middlesboro in the opening round on Thursday night. The Yellowjackets won the 13th Region by defeating Pineville on Sunday afternoon. Middlesboro is 11-7 on the season.
The Rebels are hoping the experience of playing in Frankfort last year will benefit them this time around.
“We know what to expect and nerves won’t be there for most of us,” Shelton, who scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the championship game, said.
Owen County won its first-round game last season over Buckhorn before falling to Covington Holy Cross in the quarterfinals. The Indians went on to win the championship.
Game time on Thursday night is scheduled for 9:30 p.m. A win in the opening round would mean a game on Friday night at 9:30 p.m. against the winner of the Clinton County versus Knott County Central game.