With just over 11 minutes remaining in Monday night’s game, West Jessamine led 43-42. The lead was the Colts first and only of the night, but for those 14 seconds, it looked as if West could bring down Southwestern.
However, when those 11 minutes of game time were up, West was down 84-74.
“(Southwestern’s) probably the best team in the region ... I thought we played our hearts out tonight,” West Jessamine coach Damon Kelley said. “We had some bad turnovers in the second half, gave up too many offensive rebounds, but I cannot fault our effort one bit.”
Just a few weeks removed from a 79-50 loss at the hands of Southwestern, the Colts showed that at full strength they could play with one of the region’s best.
Down seven points early in the third quarter, West made its move to try to take over the game.
Sophomore Daulton Peters hit a two-pointer to make it 36-31 with 6:29 remaining. Robby Irgang then came up with a steal on the defensive end and Jeff Ziemann found Peters on the offensive end for a three-pointer to pull West within two points.
Southwestern pushed the lead back out to four, but a trey by junior Chase Fain made it a one-point game. A few minutes later, Fain made a basket-and-one to tie the game 40-40 with 4:04 remaining in the third quarter.
West tied the game at 42-42 a couple of possessions later, and a free throw by senior Heath Jackson gave West its 43-42 lead.
The Warriors were able to take the lead back on the other end with a pair of free throws, but West tied the game at 44-44 with 3:01 remaining in the third.
Southwestern then went on an 11-4 run to close out the third period and take a 55-48 lead into the fourth quarter.
“We had some bad turnovers late in the third quarter that led to some easy baskets,” Kelley said.
The lead expanded to as many as 15 points in the final eight minutes. Back-to-back three-pointers from Peters and Henderson made it a 68-61 game with 3:29 remaining.
West cut the lead to as few as five points on three occasions in the final 1:48.
A layup by Fain made it 77-72 with 1:04 left in the game, but Southwestern hit 3-of-5 free throws and two shots from the floor to close out the game on a 7-2 run for the win.
“I don’t know if we could have played any harder,” Kelley said.
Southwestern jumped out to a 7-0 lead to start the game before West was able to settle in and rally back to 7-6. The Warriors lead 14-11 after the first period and 30-25 at halftime.
Peters led West with 19 points. Fain scored 17 points, pulled down five rebounds, had three steals and blocked two shots.
Henderson — who was injured during West’s regular-season tilt against Southwestern — scored 11 points, dished out three assists and had two steals in 32 minutes.
In their final game as Colts, Ziemann and Jackson each scored 10 points; Ziemann led the team in rebounding with seven and also had three assists.
Southwestern dominated West down low, scoring 52 points in the paint and outrebounding the Colts 35-26.
“We had a hard time guarding their big kid inside — every time he caught the ball, he scored,” Kelley said.
West Jessamine ends the year at 19-14 overall, 12-7 in the region and 4-3 in the district. The Colts showed marked improvement from last year when they went 11-18, 6-9 and 1-5.
“These kids have done everything I’ve asked of them all year, and they came together and played their best basketball at the end of the season,” Kelley said. “I’m disappointed that we lost, but more importantly, I’m disappointed that we don’t get to play again, because I was really enjoying coaching them. I’ve had as much fun this season as I’ve ever had with any team.
“We’ve improved so much. The thing that’s most disappointing to me right now is that the last couple of weeks, I’ve felt like this team has really ‘got it.’ A coach knows what that means when you say a team ‘gets it.’ They understand that they can accomplish so much more together, and they want to keep coming to the gym every day and win for each other. That’s special to be around as a coach, because in this day and age, there’s so much selfishness out there, and this group had none of that.”