East Jessamine opened 2013 with an embarrassing 27-point loss at the hands of its rival West Jessamine. Since the Jan. 4 loss, the Jaguars have been on a tear, winning seven games in a row by an average of 15 points. Friday, East was able to avenge its loss to the Colts with a 74-68 victory in The Jungle.
After trailing by as many as 13 points in the first half, West Jessamine battled back in the first two quarters and tied the game 66-66 with 1:23 remaining in the game.
After a Robby Irgang basket knotted the game, East took the ball downcourt and began milking the clock. Senior Taylor Harper finally took a shot with 49 seconds remaining, and the two-pointer dropped in to give East a 68-66 lead.
West’s next two possessions ended in offensive fouls, and Taylor pushed the lead out to four with a pair of free throws with 33 seconds remaining. The senior would sink four more free throws in the final seconds to help the Jags hang on for their 20th win of the season.
Taylor finished with a team-high 22 points and was 8-for-8 from the free-throw line — all while battling a cold.
“The kid’s always been a leader; he’s been a winner,” East coach Chris O’Bryan said. “He sacrificed last year, played a role that really wasn’t to his strengths, but he accepted it and did it. Now this year, he’s got a completely different role, and he stepped up and hit big buckets and free throws down the stretch. He’s an all-around great kid, one of the best we’ve ever had.”
The Jaguars win came as a team effort. With Taylor leading in scoring and free-throw shooting, Timmy Bradshaw knocked down six three-pointers and sophomore Ronnie Carson dished out 15 assists and collected eight rebounds.
As a team, East was 13-for-26 from three-point range — and that was what carried the Jaguars to a sizeable lead.
Sophomore Hayden Smith sank East’s first three-pointer to give his team a 7-4 lead about three minutes into the game. Bradshaw sank a trey moments later, and the floodgates opened. The Jaguars hit four threes in the first period and held a slim 17-16 edge after the first eight minutes.
West was keeping pace thanks to three-pointers from Chase Fain and Daulton Peters. A big put-back basket by Ian Kossick killed an East run midway through the first quarter and started a run for the Colts.
Two more three-pointers by East in the first minute of the second quarter pushed the lead out to 23-16. Seniors Bradshaw and Austin Dean knocked down back-to-back three-pointers to make it a 32-22 game with 3:24 until half.
Down 10, Tanner Richards came up with a big three-pointer for the Colts, but Harper responded at the other end with a three of his own.
A trey by Bradshaw with 1:45 remaining in the first half gave East its biggest lead of the night at 40-27. It was Bradshaw’s fifth made three of the half.
“We’ve played selfish in the past; that’s been our problem, and I’ve been guilty of it as much as anybody else has,” Bradshaw said, “but I think tonight we really played as a team and came together as a family.”
West closed the first half on a 4-0 run with a basket from Peters and a pair of free throws from Will Henderson. The Jags held a 40-31 lead at the break.
“The first half was Ronnie Carson; he put the team on his back and led us the whole first half,” Harper said. “The second half got kind of sketchy there with turnovers and everything, but as a team, we just fought and clawed to get us to where we needed to be and get a win tonight.”
Carson, who had 12 assists in the first half alone, joined the three-point shootout in the second half as he hit his first deep ball of the night early in the third quarter. Carson’s minutes were limited in the second half due to foul trouble, and East would play the final 3:40 without its top distributor.
The spread stayed between seven and 11 points for the third quarter as Peters and Irgang each scored four points. Fain went to the bench with just over three minutes remaining in the third quarter with his fourth foul, and West trailed 56-47 leading into the fourth quarter.
A three by Peters 65 seconds into the quarter cut the deficit to 56-50, and he scored on a putback on the next possession to make it 56-52 — the closest West had been since midway through the second quarter.
Harper took the lead back out to six, but back-to-back baskets by Richards and Fain cut the lead to two points with 4:15 to play. On West’s next possession, Irgang scored down low to tie the game 58-58 with 3:51 to play.
With West right back in the game and threatening to take control, East suffered a huge blow as Carson was called for his fifth foul — an offensive charge.