By DOUG EADS, CJ Correspondent
After watching a double digit lead evaporate late in the third period last night at Somerset’s Briar Patch, the Southwestern Warriors righted the ship ‘Justin’ time.
Senior forward Justin Edwards tallied all 16 of his points in the second half in Saturday night’s arch-rival showdown, while teammate Adam Isaacs led everybody with a game-high 20 points.
And as a result, it was Southwestern improving to 12-3 on the year with a hard-fought, 63-53 victory last night over homestanding Somerset.
“I don’t think it was by any stretch our best game of the year,” stated Warrior head coach Steve Wright immediately following last night’s contest.
“We had some foul trouble early and our kids really responded to that,” continued the SWHS coach. “Robbie Miller, Logan (Dykes), and Hunter (Cromer) came in there in the second quarter and spelled people and helped fill in that gap. I thought all of those guys gave us some solid play both offensively and defensively, and that’s what we’ve been working toward since last September, and that’s building some depth on our team.”
Southwestern led most of the way in the opening half of play, but a pesky and improving Somerset squad stayed within striking distance of the Warriors.
With Edwards and Dylan Gaskin each saddled with early foul problems, the Briar Jumpers stayed close, trailing the Warriors by a very slim, 30-24 margin at halftime.
Edwards — held scoreless at the intermission thanks to very little playing time due to foul trouble — wasted little time to get going in the third quarter, as he put his name in the scoring column on Southwestern’s first trip downcourt in the second half.
A trey by the Warriors senior extended that halftime margin to 33-24 at that juncture — giving Southwestern its biggest lead of the evening at that point of the contest.
However, Somerset would not go away.
After a Danny Butt lay-up eased the lead out to 11 at 35-24, Jeff Cothron’s club began to methodically claw its way back into this affair.
Daniel Coldiron — who tallied 9 points for the Jumpers off the bench — hit his third trey of the contest midway through the third frame cutting the Warrior advantage down to 38-34.
After a pair of free throws by Hunter Cromer, Ryan Dishman completed a three-point play trimming the deficit to 40-37.
Moments later, Landon Powell — who turned in another fine outing off the Somerset bench — also converted an old-fashioned three-point play, knotting this one up for the final time at 42-42.
However, Edwards was just getting started.
Robbie Miller’s three-point attempt from the right baseline clanged off the rim, but Edwards rebounded the missed shot and hit a 10-footer just before the horn sounded to end the third quarter of play, giving Southwestern a 44-42 lead heading into the final stanza.
“The thing I love the most about this team is they have showed heart all year long,” stated Somerset head coach Jeff Cothron after his team’s setback last night.
“We’ve been in every game to the bitter end, so again, I think that will help us later in the year when it comes tournament time,” added the Briar Jumper coach. “We’re going to be battled tested, because we’ve been down this year, but have found ways to come back to win games all year long.”
Indeed, the Jumpers have overcame adversity on numerous occasions this season, and last night, Somerset once again faced major adversity less than a minute into the fourth period.
However last night, Cothron’s club couldn’t find a way to get over the hump against Southwestern when things went bad from the outset of the fourth quarter.
After ending the third period with an impressive 14-6 run, Austin Coomer was hit with his fourth foul of the contest with 7:17 remaining in the game with the Jumpers down by that 44-42 margin.
Seconds after being called for his fourth foul of the night, Coomer was hit with a technical foul, giving him five personals for the game and sending him to the bench ending his night.
Edwards hit both of the technical free throws, and then scored on a nice move down the lane on the next possession, giving the Warriors a four-point trip, but more importantly, a 50-44 lead with Somerset’s starting center out of the game due to fouling out.
“Austin was really going to the boards for us and making a lot of good things happen for us in the third quarter, not to mention the good defense that he was playing, so that was a huge call at that point of the game,” lamented Cothron.
“That’s a pivotal call in a game like that, and it’s tough to deal with,” Cothron added. “When we bring Daniel (Coldiron) in, right now primarily we have to go zone, but we want to play man. We were playing man at that point and giving them some problems, so that kind of changed what we wanted to do, not to mention it hurt our momentum.”
In fact, after the call on Coomer, Edwards simply put the Warriors on his back.
He scored Southwestern’s next 9 points, capping a 13-2 run, giving the Warriors a 55-44 lead midway through the fourth quarter.
The run was halted thanks to a three-pointer from Ryan Dishman which whittled the deficit down to eight points at 55-47, but Somerset was being forced to play from behind with not much time left on the clock.
A Brandon Lindsey putback got Somerset as close as it would get the rest of the way at 55-49, but Isaacs hit a trey, and scored on a drive to the bucket on Southwestern’s next possession to ease the lead back out to 61-49, helping seal the victory for the Warriors.
“Our kids are pretty resilient, and when team’s make a run on us, our kids just know they have to respond to that,” pointed out coach Wright. “They don’t always do the things that we want them to do, but they do try to respond to runs by other teams.”
“We had the answer there in the fourth quarter and made that run to get the lead back out, and I thought our older guys settled us down a little bit,” added the Warrior coach.
Hunter Cromer also hit for double figures in the win for Southwestern with 11 points, while Somerset’s Ryan Dishman was the lone Briar Jumper in double figures, scoring a team-high 16 points in the loss.
Somerset — now 8-9 on the season — will return home to The Briar Patch on Tuesday night to host the North Laurel Jaguars at 7:30 p.m., while Southwestern will not return to the hardwood until next Friday night, as arch rival Pulaski County will roll into The Wigwam for a girl—boy doubleheader.
The girl’s game will tip things off at 6 p.m., with the boy’s game to follow immediately following the first contest.
SW — 16 14 14 19 — 63
SHS — 15 9 18 11 — 53
SOUTHWESTERN — Isaacs 20, Edwards 16, Cromer 11, Butt 6, Fitzgerald 4, Gaskin 4, Miller 2.
SOMERSET — R. Dishman 16, Coldiron 9, Lindsey 9, Powell 7, T. Dishman 6, Coomer 6.