By Jonathan Kleppinger
10:25 PM EST, February 18, 2013
The buzzer on the East Jessamine boys' basketball season sounded three separate times Monday night. The Jaguars survived the first two but fell short on the third, losing a double-overtime thriller to Mercer County 89-80 in the 46th District semifinals at East Jessamine High School.
The Jaguars (23-8) saw eerily similar scenarios play out in the closing seconds of regulation and overtime, as twice they held a three-point lead that was erased by a John Ingram three-pointer for the Titans (16-12) and twice they failed to get a potential game-winning shot off.
Ingram's first big three came with 4.3 seconds left in regulation and tied the game 67-67. The ball was then tipped out of bounds, forcing another East inbounds play with just 2.7 seconds left, but the over-the-top pass to senior Timmy Bradshaw ended up in the hands of Titan senior Jordan Duncan, who called timeout with 1.7 seconds left. Mercer couldn't convert on the full-court play.
In overtime, Ingram's three tied the game 74-74 with 1:08 remaining and East held the ball until calling timeout to set a play with 14.4 seconds left. The Jaguars turned the ball over and Mercer County missed a half-court shot, forcing the second extra period.
"We had our opportunities; there's no doubt about that," East coach Chris O'Bryan said. "We could have won that game in regulation; we could have won it in the first overtime. You have the ball with a minute to go, call timeout with 15 seconds left, and you don't get a good shot off."
Sophomore Ronnie Carson and senior Taylor Harper gave the Jaguars the chance to get to overtime and then to a second overtime. East was down 61-53 with less than four minutes left when Carson took over, going on a personal 10-2 run to tie the game 63-63. Carson, who scored 26 points on the night, fouled out moments later.
Harper was a one-man wrecking crew on the offensive end in the extra periods, scoring five of East's seven points in the first overtime and all six in the second overtime. Most of his points came on relentless drives to the hoop, with a huge three-pointer that gave the Jaguars a momentary 72-69 lead in the first overtime.
"When he hit that three and hit the driving bucket, I thought, 'Wow; he's a senior taking over in the moment,'" O'Bryan said. "He did everything he could."
Harper finished with 20 points in the game. Along with fellow seniors Bradshaw, Mike Jones, Kameren Reed, Austin Dean and Jarod Rocco, Harper was part of the only back-to-back-to-back 20-win seasons in school history.
"They have everything in the world to be proud of; there's no reason to hang their heads," O'Bryan said. "They came up a little bit short; it happens, unfortunately. I told them not to let this be their defining moment ... This is by no means the highlight for them."
Mercer County moves on to the 46th District championship game Thursday, where the Titans will meet West Jessamine (16-11), who blew out Burgin (9-18) in the second half of the other semifinal game at East High, winning 84-60 after the Colts and Bulldogs played to a 30-30 tie in the first half.