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Last year as a freshman, Brandon Miller had both the basketball and his team’s season in his hands in the closing seconds of the Bears’ 30th District tournament against Anderson County and his team down one point. His buzzer-beating shot missed the mark, ending an otherwise successful season on a down note.
Spencer County Coach Jacob Barmore remembers the dejected look on his young point guard’s face following the game, and said that memory came back to him Saturday night when Miller’s face lit up in smiles as he cut down the nets after leading the Bears to a 55-49 win over Collins to capture Spencer County’s first District Championship in 27 years.
“I watched him cry last year after taking that last shot, but this year he stepped up for us and led us to the district championship,” said Barmore.
Collins’ strategy was to key on Spencer County’s two all-region players, Logan Dunbar and Trey Wyatt, and Barmore said that meant another Bear would have to step up.
“We answered that with Brandon Miller,” he said. Miller scored 19 points in the game, including seven points in the final three minutes to ice the game and the history-making win for the Bears in front of a jam-packed house at Spencer County’s Lloyd Mullins Gymnasium.
Collins came into Saturday’s game hoping to avenge a 67-51loss to Spencer County earlier in the season and for the first half, it looked like this match-up was going to come down to the wire.
Collins actually built a five-point lead to end the first quarter, 12-7, but two consecutive three-pointers by Wyatt and Ros Goodwin put the Bears back on top and the two teams battled to a 21-21 tie at the break.
At halftime, Barmore told his team not to worry about their offense, but said they needed to be more physical on defense.
“We needed to do a better job of rebounding and being physical when they cut through the lane.” He said his guys answered that call in the second half.
Despite giving up the first five points in the third quarter, Spencer County responded and went on a 8-2 run to take a 29-28 lead midway through the quarter.
After briefly giving up the lead, the Bears answered when Wyatt drove the lane and scored on a scooping layup and Miller converted an and-one to go up 34-30. Logan Dunbar then went to work inside for a bucket at the 2 minute mark and converted an old-fashioned three-point play a minute later and the Bears led 39-32 to start the final period.
Barmore said his team understands that basketball can be a game of runs, and he knew a good team like Collins had another one in them. It came early in the fourth when they scored five straight points to narrow the lead down to two and they kept it at two points until midway in the fourth quarter when Chris Dunbar hit two free-throws to push the lead back out to four.
With Spencer County’s defense playing really well and limiting Collins on offense, Barmore said the Titans were forced to foul, and unlike many other games this season, Spencer County proved to be clutch at the line on this night.
Wyatt hit four straight free-throws to keep the lead at four and then Miller’s three-point play pushed the lead to seven at 48-41.
From there, Collins was forced to foul and Miller calmly went to the line and sank four free throws in the closing minute, helping erase the pain of last year.
For his efforts, Miller, who has started for the varsity since eighth grade, was named tournament MVP.
Barmore said he took some heat a couple of years ago by throwing Miller into the starting rotation at such a young age, but said the sophomore is now battle-tested and that experience came through when it really mattered Saturday night.
Wyatt added 11 points on the night for Spencer County and Logan Dunbar added nine. Rounding out the scoring for the Bears were Ros Goodwin and Chris Dunbar with six point each, and Brice Mills who scored four points and who also collected a few blocks on the defensive end which proved to be big plays in the victory.
The Bears are now 23-6 on the season and will play Gallatin County Thursday night in the first round of the 8th Region Tournament at Henry County.