Going into the locker room with a 35-32 lead over No. 19 ranked Dunbar, East Jessamine coach Chris O’Bryan told his team to be prepared for a more aggressive Bulldog attack in the second half.
O’Bryan proved to be a soothsayer, and Dunbar (15-8) did turn up the intensity and quickly took over the game in the second half en route to an 88-77 win.
“They really started getting after us, and we talked about that at halftime that their intensity was going to pick up,” O’Bryan said. “They’re in the top 20 for a reason.”
From the opening tip, the Bulldogs zeroed in on their inside game, taking advantage of their size. In the first quarter, Dunbar put up eight second-chance points by collecting five offensive boards.
But the Jaguars (20-6) held their own, and using the three-ball, East changed an 18-14 first-quarter deficit into a three-point halftime lead, as senior Timmy Bradshaw knocked down three second-quarter three-pointers while scoring 16 first-half points. Sophomore point guard Ronnie Carson dropped in 12 first-half points en route to a game-high 23 points on the night, including going 13-of-17 from the foul line. Bradshaw finished with 19 points.
East Jessamine’s fixation on the three-ball continued in the third quarter as senior guard Taylor Harper connected with a three-pointer just 10 seconds into the second half.
From there, Dunbar’s defense, led by seniors Eric Trigg and Mike Smith and junior Donnie Lewis, took over.
Following Harper’s 3-pointer, Dunbar went on an 18-9 run over the next six minutes to seize control of the game. During that stretch, Trigg scored seven points, and ended the night with a team-high 21.
O’Bryan said the Jaguars suffered lapses on both sides of the ball during Dunbar’s run.
“We hit a three there early to go up six, but then they go on an 8-0 run and we turned it over and we didn’t get the shots we wanted on the offensive side, and I had to burn a timeout to get the kids to understand that’s what they’re going to do; you’ve got to expect that kind of thing,” he said.
But East scrapped its way back and managed to close the gap to two at 52-50 following another Harper three-pointer with 55 seconds left in the third quarter.
Following Harper’s bucket, the Bulldogs went on a 17-8 run to push their lead to 12 at 70-58 with 3:48 remaining in the game.
Down by double digits, East was forced to foul, sending the Bulldogs to the line. Dunbar responded by hitting 23-of-40 from the line for the game, including 18-of-30 in the second half.
East also visited the charity stripe often during the game, knocking down 28-of-35 attempts from the line.
“There were a lot of fouls called, but we had to start fouling with three and a half minutes to go,” O’Bryan said. “We put them on the line, and give them credit; they hit their free throws and ended up winning the game.”
East managed to cut the Bulldog lead to 82-75 with 54 seconds left following a bucket by sophomore Hayden Smith, but the rally was not to be as the Bulldogs continued to take care of business from the foul line.
The loss snapped East’s eight-game winning streak. The Jaguars will travel to London to take on North Laurel in a battle of Jaguars on Friday at 7:30 p.m.