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Oldham boys/girls Clash with South Oldham 1/4/13

January 1, 2013
By Michael Montgomery of Pegasus Sports Network

If it's the first Friday in January, that means it's time for the annual battle for district seeding - and backyard bragging rights - between Oldham County's and South Oldham's boys' and girls' basketball teams.

This year's doubleheader will be broadcast on Friday 1/4/13, beginning with the Baptist Healthcare pregame show at 5:30 pm.   The girls' game will tip at 6 pm.   Immediately following the girls' game, the boys' broadcast will start at approximately 7:35 pm.   To listen / watch the boys' game, you'll need to click out of the girls' broadcast and click on the boys' broadcast link.

In the girls' matchup, it will be a battle of first-year coaches.    Jace Bryant inherited a veteran group of Oldham County players, but he took over a program that has seen a succession of coaches - Bryant is the Lady Colonels' 7th coach in 16 seasons.   Although Oldham County is overall one of the most successful programs in Region 8 history - the Lady Colonels reached the state final four in 1980, were state runner-ups in 1988, and won it all in 1986, and have won the 8th region title more times than any other school - the team has been in a dry spell of late.   Oldham has reached the region in each of the last 8 seasons, but hasn't won the district since 2008.    This year's team, however, comes into this battle on an uptick; Oldham has won four in a row and sits at 7-5 on the season.   Junior Ashley McMurtry - who eclipsed the career 1,000 point mark last year as a sophomore - has picked up where she left off and leads the team in scoring, but she is getting some solid backup support from veterans such as Jessie Leanhart and a 6'0" transfer from Mississippi, Jenna Kirk.   The Lady Colonels are third in the region in scoring at 59.2 ppg, but their much-improved defense may be the key to their success so far.

South Oldham is also under a first-year coach, Christy Higdon.   Coach Higdon took over a program that lost its entire starting lineup to graduation last spring, including Jasmine Whitfield, last year's 8th Region co-player of the year, who signed with Division 1 Cincinnati, and all-8th Region center Mary Dye, who signed with Division 2 Bellarmine.   Higdon's team is not without talent, but is currently short on experience.  Kenzie Beaudrie, Corrine Sanford, and Emma Sedoris - who all got plenty of minutes last season - will be counted on to lead the squad early, as the newcomers get their feet wet.   Sedoris, coming off an injury, has made quite an impact since coming back.   Critical for South will be the play of first-year starting point guard Abby Vanzant, a 5'4" sophomore.    The District has gone through Crestwood the past seven seasons; South owns six district titles and one runner-up finish during that period.    The Lady Dragons will have to find a way to slow down the Oldham attack; South's defense currently ranks 16th of 17 teams in the 8th region in terms of scoring allowed, although their most recent game - a 58-40 win over Williamsburg - was promising:  it not only marked their highest point total of the season, it also marked the fewest points allowed by South this season.

The Oldham - South boys' rivalry has been quite competitive of late.   Although Oldham is 19-8 versus South over the last 15 seasons, South has won 4 of the last 7 meetings.   The two teams split two meetings in 2011-12, with the Dragons winning in Crestwood, 50-45, and Oldham winning in the 29th District final at Trimble County, 58-43.

This year, South comes into the game pre-season ranked as #2 in the 8th Region (behind Collins), with Oldham pre-season ranked #3.

Oldham County, under fourth year coach Jason Holland, is on a two year "high".  The Colonels have won the past two district 29 titles, the past two 8th region titles, and last year tied a school record with 31 wins en route to the Sweet 16 semi-finals.   Gone, however, are all-region performers Tyler Wesley and Kerry Smith, who led that team.   This year's Colonel squad is not quite as quick, not quite as stingy defensively, and certainly doesn't have the size inside it had last year with the 6'7" Wesley, but - surprise! - Oldham is 10-4 entering this contest, and champions of an extremely competitive Best in Hoops Classic Tournament that featured the likes of Louisville Moore, Louisville Eastern, Louisville Central, Louisville Southern, Louisville Manual, and North Hardin.   Oldham is currently playing as well as anyone in the region and have stamped themselves as definite contenders to possibly pull off a "three-peat".  The Colonels are 6-1 at home, with their lone loss a narrow 7 point defeat at the hands of top-five ranked Bullitt East.   And although the defense is ranking near the middle of the region (#6), the Colonels are still 7-0 whenever they reach 56 points.   All five starters average at least 7 points per game, with Garrett Masters, Sam Gruber, and Jacob Kopp - the lone returning full-time starter from last year - all averaging just over 12 apiece.

South Oldham head coach Steve Simpson has become synonymous with South Oldham boys' basketball, and the Dragons' style of play.   Now in his 13th season with the school, Simpson now ranks as one of the longest-running coaches in the 8th region, along with Glen Drury of Anderson County and Jon Jones at Gallatin County.   Simpson's record of 224-139 (.617) at the school coming into the season includes three of the school's four 20-win seasons (2005, 2009, and 2010), including South's best-ever 27-6 season in the 2009-10 season, when South finished as the 8th region runner-up.   The Dragons, as always, feature a fast-paced, opportunistic offense that is averaging over 70 ppg - tops in the 8th region.   South's average victory margin of +13.6 is second in the region...    South enters the game on a six-game winning streak that includes the championship of the 2012 Henry County Invitational, where they had to beat a much-improved Louisvile Atherton squad, always dangerous Louisville Jeffersontown and then arch-rival North Oldham.   The 80-75 overtime win over North marked South's second overtime game this year already; the Dragons proved their mettle earlier this season in an overtime loss to region favorite Collins, losing by two in overtime on a last second Titans' basket.   Point guard Mitch Catinna will be key for South.   Catinna is in his first year as the starting point guard and will likely draw lots of attention from Oldham County's constantly-changing, trapping defenses.  Also key will be the play of Shae Goodlett, one of the Dragons' undersized interior players who be-deviled the Colonels in Crestwood last year, and 6'5" senior Jack Sherry, who will move from more of a perimeter role in 2011-12 to the inside this season.   The battle between Sherry and the Colonels' 6'4" Garrett Masters will be one to watch.

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