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Braves season ends in region tournament

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By Ryan Naus

As the seconds ticked off the clock, Kody Thompson was having déjà vu.

The Braves senior had forced overtime against Owen County in the region tournament with a drive to the basket and a score.

Less than 10 minutes later, he was back in the same position, except with the chance to win. He dribbled the ball as the crowd’s pleas to keep the Braves season alive surrounded him.

As he attacked the basket, he elevated and let the ball go.

All eyes in the gymnasium followed the ball as it floated towards the basket. It hit the rim, but bounced away as Thompson crashed onto the floor. No foul was called and the Rebels advanced, winning 57-56 on March 4.

“We didn’t play our best game of the year, but our players showed a lot of heart,” coach Ron Kinmon said. “For us to make the comeback that we did showed the determination and grit of our players. Kody got in the mindset that we had to score and he started to attack the rim the way he is capable of attacking it.”

Both teams started the game slowly, as neither took control of the game until Owen County ended the first half with back-to-back three pointers, sending them into halftime with a little bit of momentum and a 22-16 lead.

The Rebels controlled the third quarter to start, scoring seven points while holding Grant County scoreless.

The Braves started to show signs of life with a seven-point run, as Thompson hit a free throw and scored after grabbing an offensive rebound and Jared Livingood came away with a steal and a score to make it 29-21.

Owen County answered with a three pointer, but Thompson went to the line and knocked down two free throws to keep the Braves close.

After an Owen County free throw ended the third quarter, the Rebels lead 33-23.

Isaiah Wartman started the fourth quarter with a basket before Caleb Kinmon hit two free throws to bring the Braves within six points.

The Rebels extended their lead to 11 points before Thompson went on the attack, driving to the basket and scoring despite being fouled. After he made the free throw, the Braves trailed 42-34 with a little under four minutes to go.

Thompson came up with a key steal and drove the length of the court for a score to get Grant County’s fan section back into the game.

The Rebels made three free throws during two possessions to make it 45-36 with two minutes left.

Justin Loomis scored on a putback before Owen County went to the free throw line.

The Rebels had their chances to put the game away during regulation, but missed free throws would haunt them. With the chance to extend their lead, the Rebels missed the front end of a one and one before Loomis came up with another big play, drilling a three pointer to make it 45-41 with just over a minute left.

Owen County missed two more free throws and the Braves took advantage as Kinmon banked a shot in to bring Grant County within two points.

After making one of two free throws, Owen County led 46-43 with 40 seconds left.

Thompson started to take over the game for the Braves as he made his way to the basket and scored to make it 46-45.

Owen County was fouled with 22 seconds left, missing both free throws but getting the offensive rebound. After one made free throw, the Rebels were ahead, 47-45, but the Braves would take the last shot in regulation.

Thompson took the team on his back, getting to the rim and scoring, as Grant County’s fans erupted and the comeback was complete.

In overtime, Owen County started strong, taking a 52-47 lead before Wartman hit two free throws.

Owen County seemed to shake off their free throw jitters, hitting two free throws to answer.

Wartman came up with an old-fashioned three point play, scoring and hitting a free throw, to make it 54-52.

Owen County again missed two free throws, but grabbed the rebound to keep possession, eventually hitting a free throw to make it 55-52 with a minute left. Thompson hit a free throw to bring the Braves within two points before Jared Livingood put the Braves ahead for their first lead since the first half with a clutch three pointer.

Owen County answered with two free throws to retake the lead and the game once again came down to Thompson attacking the basket, but the Rebels held on for the 57-56 win.

“I wanted the ball,” Thompson said. “I knew in my head I would hit the shots. Obviously, it turned out different, but I had full confidence that if I had the ball in my hands, I was going to make it happen. My teammates trusted me, but the ball didn’t bounce our way.”

“We’ve re-established that we’re a good program this year,” coach Kinmon said. “We had an above .500 record at the freshmen, junior varsity and varsity level. We have depth in our program and a lot of it is due to the players that we’ve got. We’ve got the program going in the right direction.”

Thoughts on seniors:

“I’m going to miss them,” coach Kinmon said. “I had four seniors that did it the right way. They all waited their turns and accepted their roles. I can’t say enough about Kody Thompson and the person he is. Caleb Kinmon is an example of someone who, if they really want something, they can attain it if they work hard. Jared Livingood did a lot to help us win by guarding the other player’s best guard and looking for his teammates on offense. Sean Henry is the type of the player that you can’t measure by statistics. He showed up and played hard.”

Players to watch:

“I think Isaiah Wartman has a great future,” coach Kinmon said. “We have a good core coming back with Mike Davis, Isaiah, Justin Loomis and Adam Prince. I think we’ll have some young guards in Jordan Cummins, Zach Wright and Josh Blackburn. Also, Jalen Kinmon and Trevor Hunt have a lot of potential.”