In what could have been a preview of the 12th Region championship, West Jessamine rallied from down 20 points in the third quarter to get off a contested and controversial three-pointer that would have given the Colts the lead as time expired Tuesday night against Southwestern.
However, Will Henderson’s shot was short and no foul was called as West Jessamine lost to the Warriors 77-76.
As Southwestern hit its 11th three-pointer of the game, West coach Damon Kelley brought his hands together above his head signaling for a timeout.
“Our kids didn’t quit. That’s what I preached to them at halftime; that’s what I preached to them in the third quarter was keep fighting, keep battling,” Kelley said. “I told them, (Southwestern) may make every three they take the rest of the night and score 120 or they may go cold and score 75. You just have to keep battling and give yourself a chance to win, and that’s what we did.”
During the 60-second break, his players looked at a scoreboard that showed a 60-40 Warrior lead with 3:51 remaining in the third quarter. With a 10-0 mark in the region, West cooly came out of the timeout and set to work.
“I thought we played smart offensively,” Kelley said. “They run that zone and do a good job of matching up, and we were able to get some guys flashing into the middle ... It was a balanced attack to get back in it.”
Baskets by Chase Fain, Daulton Peters and Tanner Richards over the next two minutes shaved the lead down to just 11, and West suddenly had life.
Another three by Southwestern didn’t slow West’s resolve, and a putback by Ian Kossick made it a 10-point game in the final minute of the third quarter.
The lead bounced back out to 14 in the first minute of the fourth quarter, and West responded with a 5-0 run, including a three by Peters that made it 69-60 with 5:08 to play.
Richards sank back-to-back threes later in the fourth to cut the lead down to six points and force a panicking Southwestern team to burn a timeout.
The lead hit nine a final time but the Colts slowly worked it down over the next two minutes.
A Peters basket made it a one-possession game, 75-72, with 1:37 remaining, and he sank two free throws to make it a one-point game with 1:07 remaining.
As the clock hit the 9-second mark, Robby Irgang fouled a Warrior to put them at the line for a one-and-one in a 77-76 game. Southwestern missed the first shot, and Fain collected the rebound.
Henderson took his shot from straight away as the clock wound down. Contact from a Southwestern player on Henderson’s body caused the shot to be short, and the buzzer sounded.
Kelley argued with the closest referee to no avail.
Peters finished with a team-high 28 points; Henderson added 11 points; Fain, Irgang and Richards each scored 10.
“I don’t think too many people at 60-40 thought we were going to have a shot to win at the end; we never quit fighting,” Kelley said. “It hurts to lose, but I’m proud of their effort and proud of their comeback.”