Tip-off time: Rebels look to take next step forward

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The Owen County High School Rebels reached the Eighth Region semifinals three of the last four seasons. Each of those years, the team to beat them has gone on to win the title.
This season, the Rebels are hoping to go one game farther and become the team standing on top of a ladder come early March.
The Rebels open up their season Nov. 27 at home against Western Hills. The team is coming off its best season under head coach Devin Duvall.
Owen County won the Eighth Region All ‘A’ Classic and the 31st District Tournament. They reached the quarterfinals of the State All ‘A’ Classic and the semifinals of the Eighth Region Tournament on route to winning 23 games.
To duplicate the success of last year, the Rebels will need to figure out how to replace their top scorers and rebounders.
Sawyer Williams led Owen County in both scoring and rebounding averaging 13.2 points and 7.8 boards every night. Stone Osborne was second in points averaging 11.7 a contest and second in rebounds with 5.6 a game.
The Rebels have plenty of talent returning to fill those shoes.
One of those players is very familiar with one pair of those shoes. Freshman Carson Williams had an outstanding summer getting himself noticed on the national recruiting scene. Williams is the little brother of Sawyer, now a member of the Morehead State Eagles. The younger Williams averaged six points a game last season as an eighth grader to go along with 4.5 rebounds.
Owen County also returns a pair of capable seniors who bring with them much experience.
Zach Ripy averaged 9.4 points a game last year while Justin Shelton finished the season averaging 7.8 points and 4.8 rebounds a game.
Ripy will once again be looked to get the Rebels into their offensive sets and Shelton will be asked to anchor the inside along with Williams.
Jarrod Ball also brings plenty of experience into the season. He will be limited early in the season due to an injury.
Two areas where the team will need to improve this season will be in the turnover column and from the free-throw line.
Owen County finished the season with 494 turnovers compared to just 338 assists. That means the Rebels averaged five more turnovers a game than assists.
They also shot just 56 percent from the free-throw line. Their opponents made 70 percent of their attempts from the charity stripe. Those numbers could go a long way in determining how good this team will be. Owen County played eight games a season ago that were decided by five points or less. The Rebels went 4-4 in those games.
Not only will the team have to once again face the rigors of a competitive 31st District, they will also play a tough non-district schedule.
Owen County will once again square off with Walton-Verona early in the season before heading off to take part in the Lake Cumberland Hoops Classic after Christmas.
They will wrap up the season with games against Simon Kenton, North Oldham, Anderson County, South Oldham and defending Eighth Region champion Oldham County. The Colonels advanced to the semifinals of the Sweet Sixteen a season ago before falling to Scott County.
As for the 31st District, the Rebels will kick off play in the district on Dec. 6 at home against Carroll County. The Panthers finished 14-14 last year but return their top two scorers. Seniors Dallas Gibson, Trey Boles and Brandon Stewart hope to keep their team in the mix all season. The Panthers will be coached by Carroll Yager.
As always, Gallatin County will have a say in who wins the 31st District.
The Wildcats finished 22-9 last year also reaching the Eighth Region semifinals. While they did lose a pair of leaders in Travis Davis and Zak Brown, they return a great deal of talent in Kristian Morgan who led the team with 15.6 points a game. Nick Brown, another senior, also returns for head coach Jon Jones.
Henry County had a disappointing season last year finishing 12-17. Head coach Enoch Welch is hoping to turns things around with the return of senior Derek Jeffries and junior Austin Young. The pair will have to figure out a way to replace the leading scorers from last year in Jake Hartlage (13.1 ppg) and Austin Dunn(11.3 ppg). Jeffries finished last year averaged just of nine points and nine rebounds a game. Young averaged 8.7 points and 6.9 rebounds a contest.
Eminence will enter the season still looking for its first win in the 31st District. The Warriors finished 0-9 in district play last year. Head coach Chris Nethery is hoping for better results than their 8-22 record last season.