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Bruised and Battered: Simon Kenton Pioneers outlast Grant County Braves

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By Paul Gable

Lucas Sharp's face told the story.

Blood streamed from his nose, covering the black and purple bruises under his eye, following the Braves' 74-63 loss to Simon Kenton in the first round of the 32nd District Boys' Basketball Tournament Monday evening at Grant County High School.

"I wish we could've won, but it didn't happen. They made two or three more plays than we did, and we couldn't finish," said Sharp, who finished with 14 points in his final game.

The battle wounds came with 3:19 remaining in the fourth quarter and Grant County trailing the Pioneers 61-53. Following a missed Braves basket, Simon Kenton senior center Brandon Maegley came down with the rebound and swung an elbow that hit Sharp in the face, breaking his nose and sending the senior to the floor in pain. The injury proved to be a turning point in the outcome of the game, as Simon Kenton went on a 6-0 run, building its lead to 67-53 with just under two minutes remaining.

GCHS junior Kody Thompson said the injury was "hurtful" to the Braves' chances of scoring the upset.

"He has been our leader all year, and he has such a big impact on our offense and defense. We needed him in there every second of the game. We tried to play without him and it was tough. They outplayed us down the stretch," Thompson said of Sharp's injury.

Coach Ron Kinmon also acknowledged not having Sharp on the floor did not help Grant County.

"It definitely hurt us. Lucas is our heart and soul and has been a warrior all season. When he went out with his injury, he left a void that we, unfortunately, could not fill," Kinmon said.

Despite suffering the loss, which ended Grant County's season with an 11-17 record, Kinmon was pleased with how the Braves played, shooting 51 percent from the field, 9-of-11 from the free-throw line and committing 11 turnovers.

"If you told me before the game that we'd shoot 51 percent and have 11 turnovers, I'd tell you we'll win the game," Kinmon said.

However, it was Simon Kenton's three-point shooting and 29-17 edge in rebounding that lifted the Pioneers.

"That is where they won the game. They did a great job. As a coach, you go with a game plan, and they just flat out beat us tonight," Kinmon said.

The game plan for the Braves was to limit the damage Maegley, who is listed at 6-foot-6-inches tall, could do inside the paint and force Simon Kenton to shoot three's.

Unfortunately for the Braves, half of it worked.

"We did what we were supposed to do, but they had an answer every time for our scoring," Sharp said.

Thompson said the Pioneers were in the zone from behind the three-point arc.

"It's disappointing. We played the top team in the district and gave them a run. They matched every run we gave them, and they just shot lights out from the outside," Thompson said.

Both teams opened the game with hot hands, but Simon Kenton's proved to be hotter as the Pioneers got back-to-back three pointers by sophomore guard Casey Sorrell to go ahead 21-13 at the end of the first quarter.

"We lost the game in the first quarter. From then on, they outscored us by three points," Kinmon said.

The early moments of the second quarter were much like the first as both teams traded baskets, however, the Pioneers were again able to generate some breathing room after three-pointers from both Sorrell and Jeff Slavey put Simon Kenton ahead 31-19, prompting Kinmon to call a timeout with 4:38 remaining in the half. The Braves responded by outscoring Simon Kenton 7-6 down the stretch to go into the locker room trailing 37-26 at the half.

"I hate it for our seniors. I really wanted to get them into the regional tournament," Thompson said.