East Jessamine outscored Wayne County 24-5 during the third quarter of Thursday’s game to surge past the Cardinals (17-16) and win 78-61 in the quarterfinals of the 12th Region tournament in Pulaski County.
Wayne, who lost to East 110-81 during the regular season, gave the Jaguars (28-4) everything they could handle during the first half as both teams played to a 27-27 tie at the break.
“We anticipated the 1-2-2 (zone) matchup that they were going to run,” East coach Chris O’Bryan said. “We worked on some things in practice to try an run against it, and I thought we were getting the looks and the shots we wanted in the first half; defensively, we just weren’t stopping the ball. When we did (stop the ball), we weren’t making the extra rotation, so they were getting open looks.”
O’Bryan said part of the problem was a little bit of nervousness on the Jags’ part.
Coming out of halftime, momentum swung on one play in the first 10 seconds of the third quarter. Senior Michael Rexroat set up in the corner and buried a three-pointer to give East a 30-27 lead. It was Rexroat’s lone basket of the night.
“I don’t think he realized how huge of shot that was; it just set the tone right there,” O’Bryan said.
CJ Boyd, who carried East offensively through the first half with 12 points, hit a three-pointer on the Jags’ next possession to put East up by six.
“CJ was key for us in the first half. I thought he really brought his A-game,” O’Bryan said. “Even in the second half ... he picked up his third foul early, and I had to put him back in there in the middle of the third quarter, and he didn’t pick up his fourth (until late in the game), and that’s huge for us. That’s vitally important that he plays smart like that and he did.”
Cody Collins, who was scoreless in the first half, finally started to find his stroke in the second. He hit his first shot of the third to give East a 35-29 lead at the time. Collins erupted for 10 points in the third quarter.
During the final 2:26 of the period, East went on a 12-0 run to take a 51-32 lead into the fourth quarter.
“The third quarter was probably one of our best of the year, no doubt about it,” O’Bryan said. “The key thing was we kept the ball in front of us, contested shots, and we got out and ran. When we do that and rotate properly and play disciplined defense, this team can be scary good.”
The Jaguars spent a lot of the final period at the free throw line, converting 9-of-12 attempts. Ronnie Carson scored eight points in the final eight minutes for the Jags.
Wayne County was able to get within 13 points on several occasions throughout the fourth quarter, but East held the Cards off and pulled its starters with two minutes remaining.
Boyd finished with a team-high 19 points; Collins scored 16, all in the second half; Carson had 13 points; and Timmy Bradshaw scored 10 points for East, all of which came in the post.
The Jaguars struggled with foul trouble throughout the night, but Boyd was the only player to get as many as four.
“I think a lot of that had to do with they were not sliding their feet and were doing a lot of reaching,” O’Bryan said. “They were being lazy.”
East will face Boyle County, winners of the 45th District, on Monday in the region semifinals at 6 p.m. at Pulaski County. The Jaguars beat the Rebels 57-55 on Dec. 3. East Jessamine is currently on a 17-game win streak; Boyle has won eight of its last 10.
“(Boyle) is scary good. They’re playing like everyone thought they were capable of playing ... they’re so disciplined,” O’Bryan said. “Offensively, they run a lot of backdoor cuts and a lot of screens. You’ve got to be on your game if you’re going to play man-to-man
“We’ve got to be able to mix it up and put pressure on them. They have the complete package; they have the inside-out game, a point guard that’s phenomenal, and a kid down low that’s just as good as anyone in the region ... We’ve got our hands full; there’s no doubt about that. We’ve got to come ready to play.”