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Spencer County Bears Head Coach Jacob Barmore probably feels like he’s been on a three-month long roller coaster this season. His Bears started off 8-2, then experienced a four-game losing streak and a couple of three-game losing streaks.
However, after winning four of five games last week, Barmore said he’s feeling confident his team is about to peak at just the right time as postseason play begins in one week.
“I’m really excited about playing our best at the end of the year like this. This group seems to be gelling at just the right time,” he said.
As evidence, Barmore points to last week’s 4-1 record that had them playing back to back games five nights in a row.
The stretch began with a thrilling 52-51 victory over Shelby County in a district matchup at home. The Bears had built an early lead and were able to hold on for the victory that sealed their third-place draw in the district tournament that begins next week.
On Wednesday, the Bears hit the road for a make-up game against Bullitt Central that had previously been postponed due to weather.
Spencer County got off to a slow start early, falling behind 7-3, but an old-fashioned three point play by Estevan Cordoba, followed by a Chris Dunbar bucket and a Alex Dennis layup after a steal put the Bears in front 10-7. A basket by Cameron Fitts gave the Bears a 12-9 lead after one quarter.
Trent Sheilds came off the bench to score the first four points of the second quarter as the Bears pushed their lead to 16-9 and Brandon Miller then connected on his second 3-pointer to make it 19-12. Cordoba and Dennis would drain 3-pointers later in the quarter to help keep the Bears in front and they took a 30-22 lead into halftime.
In the third quarter, the long-range shots continued for the Bears, as Dennis, Cordoba and Miller all connected and the Bears refused to let the Cougars gain any ground. Spencer County went on a 6-0 at the end of the quarter, including a shot at the buzzer by Cordoba to take a 51-33 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Bears were able to keep the Cougars caged from mounting any comeback and secured the 73-54 victory.
Miller, who missed several games earlier in the season with a bad ankle, led the way with 21 points while Cordoba added 18. Dunbar and Dennis each added eight, Shields and Fitts each scored six, Bridger Knotts, Brennan Smith and Jamie Newman each scored two and Justin Smith added one.
Ten different Bears scored on the night and that points to the strength of this year’s team – balance and depth. Of course, finding how to best utilize that balance and depth has been a work in progress – one Barmore thinks the team has finally accepted.
“That’s been the toughest task,” said Bamore, who said he’s got a number of guys with the ability to start.
“Our starting lineup has changed several times this year, and it may change again this week,” he said. The key is for players to understand their roles and focus on team success.
He said it’s sometimes a matter of self-sacrifice, of not worrying about how many minutes you get, but whether the team is successful.
“They’ve had to learn to give of themselves, to be happy at the end of the night whether they scored one point or 25.”
The other point of emphasis Barmore wants to stress heading down the stretch is defense. Currently, the Bears are averaging more than 66 points a game on offense, which leads the region, but they are also giving up the most. He wants his team to set new goals of holding teams in the 50s, and they reached that goal three times last week.
Spencer County followed the Bullitt Central win with a 81-58 loss to a very good Mercer County team, but bounced back with a 78-73 win over Henry County and a 74-55 victory over Fern Creek on Saturday.
As the Bears enter their final week of action, Barmore is hoping for victories, but is more concerned with getting his team to concentrate on defense. They close the regular season with home games on Tuesday against Bethlehem, on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. against South Oldham and on Friday at 6 p.m. at North Bullitt.
Next Wednesday, the Bears will open district tournament play against Collins at Collins at 7:45.
“We know what we’re up against. They’re ranked in the state and it’s going to be a tall order to beat them at their place,” said Barmore.
He wants to use these final three games this week to prepare.
“These next games are important, but my primary focus is to use these to prepare for Collins.”
Barmore is optimistic. His Bears are now 14-13 on the season, but they are a veteran squad with seven seniors and a deep team. There are six or seven guys on the team that could lead the team in scoring on a given night. He said last week’s 4-1 record is a good sign as the season winds down and tournament time approaches.
Thursday night’s home game will be Senior Night for both the boys and girls, and other seniors involved in extra-curricular activities will also be recognized that evening.