By Jonathan Stark
12:04 PM EST, January 23, 2013
East Jessamine may have come away with a 27-point win over Bullitt Central Saturday night, but the Jaguars didn’t put the Cougars away until the third quarter when their floor general, Taylor Harper, took over.
The Jaguars, who hold the best record in the region at 17-6, came out to a some-what sluggish start, allowing 16 points in the opening quarter and scored just 18 themselves. East never trailed, but their performance was disheartening to head coach Chris O’Bryan.
“We have younger kids; we’ve won a few games in a row — they didn’t come mentally prepared at the start, and it was disappointing to me because it was the first time we’d played here in a long time,” he said. “You want to have a good showing. That’s what I talked to them about at the end of the quarter, and that’s what I talked to them about at halftime.”
East had played its previous 12 games on the road and went 9-3. The Jags have only played five home games this season (4-1).
Foul trouble was a contributing factor to East’s slow start. Harper picked up two fouls in the first half and spent most of the first 16 minutes on the bench with freshman TJ Downey playing in his place.
East was able to pick up its defense in the second quarter, holding Bullitt Central without a basket for more than five minutes. During that span, sophomore Ronnie Carson scored seven points. He gave East a 10-point lead with a three-pointer from the left side and was fouled on the trey. He sank the ensuing free throw to make it a 27-16 game with 4:12 until half.
Downey hit a three of his own in the period to help East to a 38-25 lead heading into the half.
Harper came back on to the floor at begin the second half, but he quickly picked up his third foul. Despite being on the verge of serious foul trouble, Harper took over and helped expand his team’s lead on the offensive end and stymie Central on the defensive end. Harper scored six of East’s first eight points of the half and pushed the lead out to 19 points.
“(Harper) is the heart and soul of this team; he’s the motivation; he’s our leader and talks to everyone and gets them where they need to be, and it hurts when he’s not in there,” O’Bryan said. “That kind of set the tone there in the beginning when your team captain picks up two fouls and is sitting over there on the sideline, and we struggled a little bit.”
The Jaguars went on a 10-2 run later in the quarter to take a 56-31 lead.
“I really liked the way we played defense in the second half,” O’Bryan said. “... I felt like their whole focus changed after halftime and I felt they did a good job from that point on. I thought defensively they did what we wanted them to do.”
A basket by Harper early in the fourth quarter gave East its largest lead of the night, 31 points, and the Jags cleared their bench for the final seven minutes.
Harper finished with 12 points in limited minutes. Ronnie Carson scored a team-high 24 and Timmy Bradshaw was also in double figures with 10 points.
The Jags game was part of the day-long East Jessamine Coaches vs. Cancer showcase.