By Dave Malaska
NEW CASTLE, Ky. – Simon Kenton had a two-point lead with under two minutes to go in Tuesday night's 8th Region final.
But South Oldham tied the score to send it to overtime then outscored the Pioneers, 7-4, to win their second regional title in a row, 50-47 at Henry County.
Neither team led by more than four points through three-plus quarters of play until the Dragons (22-4) opened the fourth quarter with a Drew Greenwood 3-pointer that made it 41-34 in South Oldham's favor.
Simon Kenton clawed its way back to take a 43-41 lead on a 3-pointer by senior guard Taylor Morrison with 2:58 left to play but lost track of senior Kyle Young under the basket a minute later as he took a backdoor pass and laid it in to tie it.
Neither team could convert before the end of regulation, sending the game to overtime. There, senior guard Jonathan Blair's two free throws gave the Dragons a two-point lead with 1:43 remaining, then Drew Bullock added another free throw to put Oldham up by three with 26 seconds left.
Morrison scored on a drive to the basket with seven ticks remaining and Simon Kenton fouled Blair to send him to the line with 4.5 seconds left.
The senior missed the front end of the 1-and-1, but rebounded his own miss and scored as the buzzer sounded to lock down the Dragons' title defense.
"It's tough," said Morrison after the game. "When we went up (in the fourth quarter), I thought for sure we had done it. We were going to win. It just didn't turn out that way. We fell just short."
The Pioneers (15-14) had battled their way back from the seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter slowly, getting five free throws before Morrison's trey gave them the lead. A Kuntz misfire from the corner went out of bounds in a rebound scuffle under the basket, then South Oldham found Young streaking to the hoop to even the score.
From there, Simon Kenton coach Trent Steiner said, all they wanted was one shot for the win. The Pioneers worked the ball around the perimeter until Kuntz saw an opening and drove to the rim, scooping his shot up from slightly behind the backboard.
South Oldham rebounded the miss and got off a desperation 3-point attempt, but the game went to extra time.
"We were going to take whatever they gave us,” Simon Kenton coach Trent Steiner said. “If we could score on a layup early, we'd take that. We figured we've got the ball and we can't lose if we've got the ball. We got a layup out of it, but it just didn't fall."
In overtime, neither team was particularly sharp. The Pioneers were 2 of 3 from the field but committed four turnovers and were outrebounded, 5-1. The Dragons were 2-for-6 from the floor in the final four minutes.
South Oldham had endured overtime to beat Collins on Monday night, while Simon Kenton's game didn't wrap until around 10:30 p.m. Pioneer players didn't make it home until well after midnight, after the 70-minute drive north.
The pressure of overtime in the final didn't help.
"If you look at both sets of stats, we both had tired legs, truthfully,” Steiner said. “At the end of the day, they made one more play than we did. That's what cost us the game."
South Oldham was led by Greenwood's 16 points, while Young finished with 12 — well below his 19 points-per-game average. Morrison finished with 15 points on 33 percent shooting to lead the Pioneers. Junior Jaeger Pracht scored 11 points to go with eight rebounds and two steals.
The Dragons outshot Simon Kenton, 49 percent (22-of-45) to 36 (14-for-39), but were held below their average output from the 3-point arc. Coming in averaging 40 percent shooting from long range, South Oldham was 2 of 19 in the final.
The Pioneers were 5-for-20 from deep.
The loss ends Simon Kenton's dark horse run deep into the tournament. Entering the district tourney, it had lost five of their last six games and had a record of 12-12.
"I don't think many people predicted we get this far," said Kuntz, who will play football at Western Kentucky University next year. "I don't think many people expected us to make it out of districts, but it's a lesson for the younger guys: You can do anything, even when nobody thinks you can, just by playing hard."
Said Steiner of his Pioneers' run over the final weeks of the season: "No couldas, shouldas or wouldas: If we had played like that all year, it would have been a different story record-wise, but it is what it is.
"We got to the finals and lost in overtime. No matter what else there is, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth."
Notes: Morrison, Kuntz and junior Matt Mullins were named to the all-tournament team, as were Drew Bullock, Blair and Young from South Oldham. Joining them were Traejon Stone and Deion Cochran from Collins, Carson Williams (Owen Co.), Austin Johnson (Grant Co.), Hayden Hawes (Oldham Co.), Austin Young (Henry Co.) and Malik Manica (Shelby Co.)
S. KENTON 11- 4- 9- 9- 4—47
S. OLDHAM 13-13-12- 5- 7—50
SIMON KENTON (15-14): Kuntz 2 0 6, Pracht 4 3 11, Morrison 4 6 15, Mullins 1 2 4, Childers 2 0 6, Robinson 2 1 5. Totals
15 12 47.
SOUTH OLDHAM (22-4): Greenwood 6 2 16, Young 6 0 12, Blair 2 2 6, Griffin 3 0 6, McWilliams 1 0 2, Bullock 0 1 1, Fields 1 0 2, Horsey 2 1 5. Totals 21 6 50.
3-pointers: SK—Kuntz 2, Childers 2, Morrison. SO—Greenwood 2.