West Jessamine relied on its defense and inside strength to finally distance itself from Burgin late in the third quarter Tuesday and go on for a 62-46 win in the semifinals of the 46th District Tournament at Mercer County.
“Our defense in the third quarter did a good job of not giving them buckets. The first few minutes of the third quarter, we were settling for threes and not hitting them,” West coach Damon Kelley said. “We’re normally a good shooting team, and I want my kids to have the confidence to shoot when they’re open because they are good shooters. The shots weren’t falling, so we finally started attacking the rim a little bit.”
The Colts (18-12) play East Jessamine in Friday’s district final. The Jaguars beat Mercer 75-43 Tuesday.
Chase Fain led West Jessamine with 14 points, and Robby Irgang, DeShawn Eubanks and Daulton Peters each scored 11. West finished 24-of-57 from the field and made 9-of-11 at the line.
But it wasn’t until the third quarter that the Colts could relax.
Down 15 in the second quarter, Burgin (22-9) made a huge comeback and trimmed the margin to 31-27 at the half.
A jumper from Daulton Peters made it 35-29 with 5:07 left in the third quarter, but a bucket from Zack Irvine and two free throws from Alex Beckerson cut the lead to 35-33 with 3:05 left in the period.
Then the Colts took over.
Eubanks had two free throws and a dunk, and Heath Jackson scored on a put-back. After Beckerson missed a shot inside, West came down and Will Henderson drained a three-pointer form the top of the key to make it 44-33 with 52 seconds left in the quarter.
“From there, we kind of took off from that point,” Kelley said of Henderson’s three-pointer. “DeShawn was huge for us; Robby Irgang was huge for us. Robby with his hustle and DeShawn with his length and ability to block shots, and he’s finishing so much better. Those two guys really spared us tonight.”
Burgin coach Don Irvine, who coached his final game Tuesday, said the Colts’ inside strength was too much for his squad.
“I thought they got more aggressive on offense and defense and kind of took us out of what we were wanting to do,” Irvine said. “We’ve been going to the line 20, 25 times a game, and we only had two in the first half and 11 for the game. That doesn’t fit into our strength. We like to attack the goal and get to the line, and we didn’t do much of either one.
“Their inside game is real skilled. And they really shut us down.”
West led 46-33 after three quarters and led 51-33 early in the fourth. Burgin never got closer than 16 points the rest of the way. The Bulldogs finished 17-of-37 from the floor and 9-of-11 at the free-throw line.
The Bulldogs finished their best season in 71 years at 22-9 in the final season for coach Don Irvine. Beckerson had 15 points and nine rebounds, and Travis McEachern added 12 points and five boards for Burgin, trailed 21-9 after a quarter, and still trailed 26-11 when the Bulldogs staged a rally.
Beckerson’s bucket inside started a 13-0 run that cut the Colts’ lead to two. Zack Irvine and Beckerson scored inside, and Austin Shewmaker drilled a three-pointer from the right wing off of a West turnover to make it 26-20 with 3:37 to go in the first half. Shewmaker then was fouled on another three from the right wing and made the free throw to make it 26-24 with 3:01 to go in the half.
“I thought we got in there and were really attacking them at the basket. And they missed some easy shots, too,” Irvine said. “They missed some at point blank, and that helps, obviously; it helps get our running game going. And I thought in transition we gave them a lot of trouble there.”
A put-back, steal and three-point play from Irgang pushed the lead back to 31-24, but Beckerson’s three-point play with 28 seconds left in the half made it 31-27 at the break.
“A lot of the other guys, since their shots weren’t falling, I could see the look in their eyes; they didn’t know how to react,” Kelley said. “But Robby and DeShawn both stepped up and gave us a spark and gave us confidence and guys started to finish plays.”
West Jessamine will try for its seventh district championship in eight years on Friday against East Jessamine. The championship is at Mercer County at 7 p.m. West and East have not met in the district championship since the 2008-09 season, when the Colts won 55-45; that district tournament was also held at Mercer.