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Good outside shooting and pressure defense were the keys to victory for the Spencer County Bears last Tuesday night as they defeated the visiting Wildcats of Whitefield Academy, 58-55.
The Bears got off to a slow start before senior Alex Dennis drained a three-pointer to tie the score at 5-5 early in the first quarter. The visitors were also hitting open three-pointers and were able to build a 13-9 lead before junior Bear Estavan Cordoba hit his first three to cut the lead to 13-12. Whitefield would hold a 18-14 advantage after the first quarter.
In the second period, the Spencer County defense turned up the pressure midway through the frame after falling behind 26-17. Steals led to easy buckets by Brandon Miller, Cordoba and then Dennis hit another three to push the Bears up 28-26. The spurt would continue and the Bears hit the lockers with a 34-29 advantage at the half, thanks to a 17-3 run.
Whitefield would draw within two early in the third period, but another three-pointer by Dennis pushed the lead back to five and then Dennis scored two quick baskets off steals and the Bears were off on another run that saw them build that lead to as many as 11 when Brennan Smith scored off a steal to make it 47-36.
However, Whitefield would score the final seven points of the quarter, including a three-pointer to close the gap to four headed into the final frame.
After a three-pointer and another bucket by Whitefield, the score was tied at 49-49. Cordoba then drained another three-pointer from the corner to give the Bears a 52-49 advantage. The visitors hit a trey of their own to tie it up at 52-52 midway through the final frame, and the two teams struggled to score much after that.
Chris Dunbar was able to work inside, earning two free throws and then scoring with under a minute remaining to build the lead to 56-53, but another layup brought the Wildcats to within a point. Cordoba was able to score a bucket inside with less than 40 seconds remaining, and Whitefield worked the clock for a final shot, missing a three-pointer to tie as the buzzer sounded.
For the game, Dunbar led the way with 16 points while Dennis and Cordoba each finished with 15 points. Brandon Miller added five, Cameron Fitts scored four and Smith added two.
On Friday night, the Bears traveled to Mount Washington to take on the Bullitt East Chargers, who are led by two potential Mr. Basketball candidates in UK signee Derrick Willis and Bellarmine recruit Rusty Troutman.
Bullitt East raced out to an early lead and never looked back, holding a 23-12 lead after one quarter and leading 41-29 at the break. The second half afforded little mercy as Bullitt East, who is looking to make its third straight appearance in the Sweet 16 this year, and according to many, one of the favorites to take the title, continued to build the lead and erased any hope for a Spencer County rally, winning 98-58.
Troutman scored 30 points on the night with Willis adding eight.
For the Bears, Fitts led the way with 15, while Dunbar added 11 and Dennis scored 10. Bridger Knotts added nine points for the Bears, Cordoba and Justin Miller each scored four, Trent Shields scored three and Brandon Miller tallied two points.
The Bears were slated to travel to Frankfort’s Western Hills on Tuesday and will host Corbin this Saturday at noon. They will be at home next Tuesday for a matchup with Nelson County at 7:30 p.m.