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Thomas Nelson, Collins defeat Spencer

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By John Shindlebower

After a long holiday stretch of road games and tournaments, the Spencer County Bears returned home for two games over the weekend. While they suffered two losses, the first game offered a glimpse of promise as the Bears went toe-to-toe against a quality team in Thomas Nelson.

THOMAS NELSON 60, SPENCER COUNTY 55
The Thomas Nelson Generals offer an imposing line-up featuring a 6-10 center and two other starters that stand 6-6 and 6-5. It took no time for Thomas Nelson to exploit that size advantage when they found their big man for an alley-oop dunk on their first possession.
To their credit, the Bears answered quickly with a three-pointer by Cameron Fitts and he would score Spencer County’s first seven points as Thomas Nelson proved they could score from the perimeter also, hitting three treys of their own as they built an early 14-7 lead midway through the first quarter. Jamal Downs sank a three-pointer just before the buzzer to draw the Bears to within 18-12.
The second quarter was dominated by defense as both teams struggled to score, but Jamie Newman’s three-pointer down the stretch kept it close and Spencer County trailed 24-19 at the half.
The visiting Generals threatened to run away with the game with five quick points early in the third quarter to build a 29-19 lead, but Spencer County answered with an impressive 13-0 run to take a lead. A Fitts trey started the rally that was highlighted by a running floater by Downs, the smallest player on the court, over the 6-10 big man for Thomas Nelson. Kynan Smith then converted on a turnover and a technical on the General bench put Fitts on the line where he hit both free throws for a 32-29 lead.
The teams traded buckets, which included another Downs floater over the big man and a Justin Miller old-fashioned three-point play to give the Bears a 39-36 lead after three.
Downs continued his stellar play with a three-pointer to open the final frame and Miller scored off a steal and Downs had another nice drive down the middle of the lane to put the Bears up 46-38 with just under five minutes remaining.
However, Thomas Nelson hit two three-pointers to narrow the gap that briefly went back to five when Spencer County’s Estevan Cordoba sank a three. The Generals kept chipping away at the lead and reclaimed it at 50-49 for one possession, before two straight three pointers put the visitors on top for good. Downs again scored on a drive down the middle to pull the Bears within three, but they could get no closer, and dropped the 60-55 decision.
Spencer County Coach Jason Burns was pleased with his team’s performance and their refusal to shrink against a much bigger team. Downs and other Bears repeatedly took it to the larger Generals and found success.
“Jamal played very well and has been playing well the past few weeks. We were thrilled to see our guys take on their size,” said Burns, who noted that his Bears out-rebounded Thomas Nelson on the night.
“We were very excited about the performance Friday. Thomas Nelson was a very talented team. They could shoot it well, had a ton of size and are playing really good.”
Burns was pleased with his team’s defensive effort even at the end, and said you simply have to give the other team credit when they make two long three-pointers to seal the win.
Downs and Fitts led the way with 14 points each. Miller had 11, Smith scored eight, Newman and Cordoba each had three and Blake Lambdin scored two.

COLLINS 64, SPENCER COUNTY 38
The Bears were back on their home court Saturday night against district rival Collins, but did not look like the same team.
The visiting Titans roared out to a 15-3 first quarter lead, holding the Bears without a single basket from the field in the first frame. By the time Spencer County got on track, they had dug a huge hole for themselves and trailed 36-14 at the half on the way to a 64-38 defeat.
Burns said his team appeared timid after getting behind so early and said his guys were not ready to respond to such adversity at this point in the system.
“We just got off to a bad start and didn’t really get going until a few minutes into the third quarter, which was too late.” He called Collins perhaps the best defensive team he’s seen in the 8th region over the past several years.
Fitts led the way for Spencer County with 10 points with Miller adding seven and Lambdin scoring five. James Mouser, Smith and Cordoba each scored three while Downs, Newman and Houston Davis scored two each.
The Bears are now 6-10 on the season and were to travel to North Oldham on Tuesday night and to John Hardin on Friday. The next home game is Jan. 24 against Oldham County.