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To win the 31st District title, the Owen County Rebels would have to defeat a pair of rivals that have not been friendly as of late.
Over the past couple of seasons, Gallatin County has had the upper hand against Owen County.
Henry County has been tough on Owen County, beating the Rebels twice this year at the buzzer. The second time came back in January when the Wildcats sank a 40-footer at the horn to win the All “A” Classic.
The Rebels’ climb to the top started Feb. 25 against Gallatin County.
The game was close throughout the first half.
Owen County held a 24-22 lead late in the second quarter before Gallatin County managed to score the final five points to take a 27-24 lead into halftime.
The Wildcats extended the lead to 30-24 early in the third quarter but appeared to lose their momentum when Trent Maddox left the game halfway through the quarter with a twisted ankle. The Wildcats extended the lead while he was out of the game to 34-29. They took that same lead into the final quarter.
With Maddox hobbled, the Rebels rallied with solid team defense and tied the game at 38-38 when Michael Colligan sank two free throws.
The Rebels outscored the Wildcats 10-1 over the next four minutes to take a 48-39 lead into the final minute.
The Rebels’ run was spurred on by clutch free-throw shooting. Owen County made 16 of 22 free throws in the fourth quarter.
Owen County went on to win the game 53-44.
Jordan Shelton finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Collin Gamble had 12 points while Drew Marston had 10 points and five assists. Colligan had eight points to go along with Blake Lewis, Stone Osborne and Royce Neeley, who each had two points.
After the game, Gamble said the win was big for him and his teammates.
“It is the biggest game our senior class has ever won,” Gamble said.
The Rebels hung around to see which team they were going to face in the finals.
Who did they want to play? Owen County Boys Head Basketball Coach Devin Duvall had a quick answer.
“We want Henry County,” Duvall said. “It is a chance to get redemption.”
The Rebels got what they wanted when Henry County defeated Carroll County to set up the championship game.
In the championship game Saturday night, the Rebels were looking to win their first district title since 1987 and erase the painful memory of the last time they played Henry County in Carrollton.
For a while Saturday night, the game seemed eerily similar. Both teams wore the same color uniforms and sat on the same benches as they did that night. The game even took on the same pace.
When playing Henry County, opponents must remain patient. The Wildcats’ slow offense makes other teams wonder if they would get in a hurry if the building caught on fire.
The Wildcats used that pace to their advantage as they took a 16-12 lead into halftime.
The Rebels came out of the locker room and took the lead when Gamble scored five quick points to put Owen County on top 17-16.
From that point, the lead would change hands eight times and would be tied six times.
Henry County took a 34-31 lead with less than three minutes left in the game before Owen County came back to tie the game at 37-37 when Blake Traylor drove into the lane and scored.
Owen County took the lead for good when Shelton sank two free throws to put the Rebels on top 39-37 with 1:08 remaining.
The Rebels did their best to hang on. Henry County was unable to hit the big shots in the final minute and Owen County made enough free throws to seal the 42-37 win.
After the game, Duvall summed up the win with one word – “relief.”
Duvall said the win was good for the program and especially the seniors.
“After all the sacrifice, it is nice to see it pay off,” Duvall said.
“It is the best feeling,” Marston said after cutting down his piece of the net.
The win gave the Rebels their first district championship since 1987.
Traylor, who injured his ankle late in the game, pointed out that none of the current Rebels were even born the last time Owen County captured the district crown.
Owen County also won the title in 1954 and 1962.
Gamble led Owen County with 14 points. Shelton had 11 points while Colligan had 10. Sawyer Williams came off the bench to score four points. Traylor had two points while Royce Neeley hit a crucial free throw for his only point of the night.
Shelton, Colligan and Gamble were each named to the All-Tournament Team.
The win also made history for the school. It was the first time that both the boys and girls won the district title in the same year.
The Rebels open up play in the 8th Region Tournament Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. when they take on Grant County. A win would put Owen County in the semifinals Monday night against either Anderson County or North Oldham.