By DOUG EADS, CJ Correspondent
No Virginia Scott — no problem.
The Somerset Lady Jumpers came into the opening round of the Girl’s 47th District Tournament last night knowing that their leading scorer and top scoring threat Virginia Scott would not be available due to concussion-like symptoms.
Taking on always tough Rockcastle County in a win or go home scenario, Erin Walker’s club needed the rest of the troops to step up, and the Lady Jumpers did just that.
Bethany Edwards scored 15 of her team-high 20 points in the first half, while her running mate — Maranda Mills — scored 17 of her 20 points after the intermission.
The Lady Jumpers got contributions from everybody, and withstood a furious fourth quarter rally by Rockcastle County, upsetting the Lady Rockets by a final count of 56-52.
As a result, Walker’s team punched its ticket to the 12th Regional Tournament for the first time since 2003 — the post-season drought is over.
So coach Walker, do you agree that not many folks outside your locker room gave your club almost no chance of winning tonight?
“No, they didn’t, and they didn’t give us much of a chance since the preseason, and that’s why we’ve worked our tails off this year,” stated a very happy coach Walker after last night’s win.
“We wanted to prove to everyone that they should have given us some credit,” added the SHS coach. “Bethany (Edwards) did not want to go out of here without going to a regional tournament, because she had never done it. She did not want to leave here without going to a region, and it showed tonight with the way she played.”
Indeed, it was Edwards that gave Somerset a big-time lift in the opening half of play.
The senior point guard drained a trio of three-point baskets in the first half, leading her club with 15 points at the intermission.
Back to back treys by Edwards gave Somerset its biggest lead at that time — 23-18 — over The Rock late in the first half.
Late in the third period of play, a trey from Erica Ford extended Somerset’s lead over the Lady Rockets at 31-23, but Rockcastle County’s Michaela Hunter tried to will her club back from the dead.
After an Edwards bucket that extended the margin out to 36-29, a Hunter trey and a basket off a steal by the Lady Rocket senior brought Rockcastle to within a basket of Somerset — 36-34 headed into the fourth quarter of play.
Another basket by Edwards early in the fourth quarter gave Somerset its biggest lead of the game — 48-37 — but Rockcastle County would fight back yet again.
And, it was Hunter leading the way for her club.
The senior guard tallied 15 of her game-high 26 points in the second half, and despite a valiant comeback bid — on this night at least — the Lady Jumpers were not going to be denied a trip to a regional tournament for the first time in 10 long years.
“I think Michaela (Hunter) hit one of her three’s from the volleyball line, and Rockcastle County didn’t give up, and they kept fighting us,” pointed out Walker.
“We kept having to settle the girls down there in the fourth quarter,” remarked the Lady Jumper coach. “We just kept reminding them that they had come this far, and not to let Rockcastle County take this game away from them.”
Back to back treys late in the game from Hunter and Kayla Reynolds pulled the Lady Rockets to within three points of Somerset — 51-48 — but Mills would seal the game from the charity stripe, hitting a pair of big-time free throws giving her club a 55-52 lead with only :03.9 left in the contest.
After a steal by Somerset on the ensuing inbounds pass by Rockcastle County, Edwards hit one of two from the free throw line with just :01 left in the game, giving Somerset the hard-fought, 56-52 victory over Rockcastle County.
Let the celebration begin.
With the win over Rockcastle County, the Lady Jumpers advanced to the championship game of the tournament, which will tip off on Saturday evening at The Briar Patch at 7 p.m. against Casey County.
The Lady Rebels won last night’s opening game, with a resounding 52-27 win over Pulaski County.
Walker says she likes her club’s chances of doing the unthinkable — winning the 47th District title.
“I really like our chances against Casey County, because I think we match up very well with them,” pointed out the Somerset coach.
“They are very fundamentally sound both offensively and defensively, so we do have our work cut out for us,” Walker added. “We’re going to have to come out ready to play on Saturday, but we can do it.”
With the win last night, the Lady Jumpers advanced to next week’s 12th Regional Tournament for the first time since the 2002-’03 season when Judie Mason was at the helm of the Somerset program.
Thanks to the Somerset boy’s victory over Rockcastle County on Wednesday night — both the girl’s and boy’s from Somerset have advanced to their respective regional tournaments for the first time in the same year since all the way back in the 1999-’00 season.
“I think with what our boy’s and girl’s teams have done this year with first-year head coaches leading both programs, it only signifies how good both of these hires were, when we hired coaches (Jeff) Cothron and (Erin) Walker,” stated SHS athletic director Bob Tucker after last night’s contest.
“They have each done a super job with their teams this year, and I couldn’t be any prouder than I am tonight with how strong both of our programs are right now,” Tucker added.
Tonight, the Boy’s 47th District Tournament championship will tip off at 7 p.m., as the homestanding Briar Jumpers will face arch-rival Pulaski County for the third time this season.
Somerset and Pulaski County split their two regular season games this year, each winning on their home court.
Both teams will advance to next week’s 12th Regional Tournament, which gets underway next Monday night at Lincoln County High School.
Tip off for tonight’s game is set for 7 p.m.
RC — 11 10 13 18 — 52
SHS — 13 12 11 20 — 56
ROCKCASTLE CO. — Hunter 26, Eversole 11, Reynolds 7, Coguer 4, Miller 4.
SOMERSET — Edwards 20, Mills 20, Brooks 6, Ford 6, Bigelow 4.