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The Grant County Braves had a plan heading into the district tournament to earn at least one win and advance to the region tournament.
With their 59-45 win over Walton-Verona on Feb. 25, the Braves did just that. The next phase of the plan was to eliminate Simon Kenton en route to a district championship.
The Braves battled the Pioneers before falling 54-51 on Feb. 27 to take second place in the district.
“I thought that we did some good things,” coach Ron Kinmon said. “Unfortunately, we came out on the short end on the scoreboard. I told the players that we played until the final horn sounded and kept looking for a way to win the game.”
The Braves held an early lead with Kody Thompson scoring six points to put the Braves ahead 10-6.
The Pioneers tied the game with a four-point run before Caleb Kinmon scored on a backdoor cut to the basket. Simon Kenton went on a five-point run before Thompson scored off of an offensive rebound. The Pioneers were still able to get a bucket before the buzzer sounded with Simon Kenton ahead 17-14.
Simon Kenton extended their lead to 21-14 before Isaiah Wartman scored to cut into their lead before Kinmon made a play that electrified the crowd.
Kinmon forced a Pioneer turnover, stealing the ball and streaking down the court alone. He rose up and threw down a dunk despite being fouled intentionally. The dunk got Grant County’s fans back into the game and put the Braves down 21-19.
“It was only my second dunk of my career, but it felt amazing to me,” Kinmon said. “I thought it was going to be a momentum builder, but it felt great. I’ve been trying to be a leader all year, but I wanted to build momentum. It’s a big deal in high school and can change the flow of the game.”
Simon Kenton answered with a score of their own before Mike Davis knocked down two free throws to answer. Kinmon scored to tie the game at 23.
The Pioneers made two more free throws before Jared Livingood saved a ball from going out of bounds, connecting with Kinmon, who eventually found Davis for a score to tie the game 25-25 at the half.
The third quarter was rough for the Braves as Simon Kenton outscored them 20-14 and led 45-39 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Braves started the fourth quarter with two plays that kept Simon Kenton from building on their lead. Kinmon scored before Wartman came away with a steal and a score to make it 47-44.
The Braves got within one point of tying the game before Simon Kenton hit their free throws down the stretch. The Pioneers were able to run time off the clock before being fouled while ahead 52-51.
Down two points with five seconds left, the Braves had a chance to take the lead or tie the game, but a pass sailed out of bounds and gave possession back to Simon Kenton, who held on for the 54-51 win.
Although the Braves lost to Simon Kenton, they will still play in the region tournament on March 4 in Henry County.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game and it wasn’t going to be easy,” coach Kinmon said. “But in the state of Kentucky, there’s only one team that wins their last game of the year and by playing in the region tournament, we get an opportunity to continue to play.”
“It’s really exciting,” Thompson said. “It feels like our team has accomplished something this year just by going to the regional tournament. We’re psyched and ready to play some ball. This loss shows us that any game you play can go either way. It shows us we can play with good teams and on any given night, we can take a championship for ourselves. It hurts that we didn’t do it against Simon Kenton, but it’s a learning experience.”
Braves prepare for Owen County in region tournament
The Braves have faced Owen County twice this year, splitting the regular season series. Now, the teams face for the chance to advance in the region tournament,
“Our defense is better right now than it’s been all year,” coach Kinmon said. “In the postseason, defense is what’s going to win. We’ve got to play really good defense and we’ll see what happens.”
The seniors on the team were freshmen the last time the team advanced to the region tournament and are looking forward to enjoying the experience themselves.
“We’re still improving with each game,” Caleb Kinmon said. “I think we have a good shot to win three games, but we can’t look ahead of Owen County. It feels great to still be playing.”
“We’re hungry,” Thompson said. “One good thing about winning the first game of the district tournament was that we’re not done yet. We’ve still got life and we’re going to play our hearts out. We can’t wait for another shot.”