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It was “one and done” on Tuesday night for the host Trimble County Raiders in last week’s opening round of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association’s 29th District Tournament. The Raiders knew the deck was stacked against them when they faced South Oldham, the number one seed in the district. Trimble had fallen to the Dragons by 56 points (92-36) on Dec. 13 at home.
“Our goal was to not turn it over and get good shots at all times,” Trimble Coach John Leep III said. “We figure every time we take a shot is a win for us because sometimes the more we pass it there’s more opportunities for us to turn it over. I think we only had four turnovers in the first half.
“Defensively, our strategy was to get out on their shooters and make them drive into the lane, then step over and take charges and limit them to one shot,” Leep said. “About eight of their points in the first half were off of second chances. They’re a good enough team to beat anybody in our region on one shot but if they get two shots or three shots a trip they’re almost unbeatable. We wanted to limit them to one shot. In the first half we did a pretty good job, in the second half we didn’t do a very good job at all.”
While the Raiders’ 2012 postseason experience was limited to 32 minutes they battled hard. Trimble was still very much in the ballgame at the halfway point, trailing by 14 at 41-27.
“The effort was tremendous,” Leep said of his team’s performance through two quarters of play. “We scrapped, took some charges and we really took care of the ball well in the first half. When we take care of the ball we can play with anybody in our region. Our thing is turnovers, though, and our turnovers caught up with us in the second half.”
The Dragons opened the second half with six unanswered points and continued to widen the gap in the third period, holding a 67-42 advantage at the third quarter stop. South Oldham connected at a 52 percent clip from the field in the second half while limiting Trimble’s offensive percentage to 31 percent. The Raiders, who had converted 71 percent of their first half free throws, sank only three of 10 in the second half.
“We left way too much meat on the bone when it came to shooting free throws,” Leep said. “We had a couple of opportunities to go to the line for three and would come away with one. One time in the first half we went for a double bonus and came away 0 for two. That’s plagued us all year. We’ve worked hard to get better at them but it hasn’t come to fruition during the games.”
The Dragons, who Leep acknowledged are “a little deeper than we are,” went on another 10-0 tear early in the fourth quarter en route to the final 36-point margin. “We got a little fatigued and as your body becomes fatigued so does your mind,” he said. “The turnovers set in and they just got too many easy baskets there in the second half.”
Leep said his players gave a much better account of themselves in their second matchup with the Dragons, adding “the growth of this team has been tremendous from day one until right now.” But he acknowledged South Oldham had also improved since December. “They’re better than when we played them the first time,” he said. “We’re also better. We’ve come a long way. Unfortunately, the gap was too big. We’re going to get to work on closing that gap immediately.”
Trimble’s offensive effort was led by five of the team’s seven seniors. Skiler Alexander paced the Raider offensive drive with 17 points, Austin Rexroat added 10, Michael Gonterman, Dylan Staples and Craig Ward each contributed eight points in the losing effort.
“They all have their special skills but they’re very special people, not only to me but to all our coaches,” Leep said of the seven young men who played their final basketball game in a Raiders uniform. “It was hard to express in words what the guys mean to us. One thing that was echoed by all coaches when talking about the seniors was the great level of character they possess. They just do things the right way. They call and check on our underclassmen all the time. I could go on forever about the good things that they’ve done. They’ve laid a good foundation for Trimble County basketball.”
Trimble closed the season with a 5-20 record.