By DOUG EADS, CJ Correspondent
Maybe it was only fitting that last night’s game between Danville and Somerset at The Briar Patch was for a regional crown, as these two old foes met in the finals of the Touchstone Energy 12th Regional All A finals.
Much like a post-season game, this game was for the most part a half-court, grind-it-out affair with neither team able to gain a comfortable lead.
However, thanks to a modest spurt by Somerset in the third period led by reserve Chandler Purcell, it was the Briar Jumpers punching their ticket to next week’s All A State Tournament in Frankfort with a hard-fought, 58-48 victory over Danville.
“One good thing about this Class A thing is that the game’s have the same kind of intensity and atmosphere that you’re going to get in the district and regional tournaments,” stated a very happy Somerset head coach Jeff Cothron after his club’s win.
“That was good for us, and I was glad to see us perform under those conditions,” continued the SHS coach. “Danville did a really good job of mixing up defenses tonight. They played a triangle and two, a diamond and one, and things like that. That kind of stuff can throw you off for a little while, but I thought our kids really did a good job of adjusting to that and making plays when they had to.”
For the Briar Jumpers, last night’s win over Danville marked the first time Somerset had won the All A 12th Regional crown since an 85-49 victory over the Admirals in the regional finals way back on January 25th, 2008.
That’s right — it had almost been five years since the Briar Jumpers had punched their ticket to the All A State Tournament, but last night, Cothron’s club was able to do just that.
However, it didn’t come easy.
In a very low-scoring, defensive affair, the Jumpers led Danville 22-20 at the half, but found themselves down early in the third quarter, thanks to a three-point bucket by Danville’s Christian Gateskill-Fuqua.
His first of five treys in the second half gave the Ads a 27-25 lead, but that’s when Cothron put his faith on what he sees each day in practice.
The Somerset coach inserted little-used Chandler Purcell into the game at that juncture, and the Jumper sophomore responded big time in a big-time environment.
Purcell — with his club trailing Danville by that 27-25 margin — hit back to back three-pointers putting his club back out in front of the Admirals 31-27.
Somerset made only four field goals in the third period, and Purcell accounted for three of those, scoring 11 points off the Jumper bench in the victory.
“The way I do things and what I go off of is what I see in practice,” pointed out Cothron.
“When I develop confidence in a kid at what he’s doing in practice — that gives me confidence to put him into the game,” continued the Jumper coach. “He’s been playing well, and he obviously showed that tonight. He came in and played with no fear, and played with confidence and played well. He gave us a big lift out there tonight.”
Early in the fourth quarter, after back to back baskets by Somerset’s Tyson Williams extended Somerset’s lead out to seven points — 41-34 — Danville would try to fight back one more time.
A three-pointer from Gateskill-Fuqua trimmed the Jumper lead down to a basket at 41-39, but that’s when Ryan Dishman scored back to back baskets — his first two field goals of the second half — which helped Somerset stem that tide and finally give the Jumpers some breathing room.
Dishman’s last field goal extended the lead out to 45-39, and after a pair of free throws by Cam Cheuvront eased the margin out to 47-39, the Ads would never threaten again in this one, as Somerset would go on for the 58-48 win to improve its season record to 14-5 on the year.
However more importantly, the win gave Somerset its first appearance in the All A State Tournament for the first time in five years — something that didn’t go unnoticed by the Briar Jumpers first-year head coach.
“This is very gratifying for all of us to get back to the All A, because these kids have worked very hard and I’m just happy for them,” stated Cothron.
“This group in particular has not had much success through their careers, so I’m really happy for them, because like I’ve said, they worked extremely hard over the summer to get to this point,” Cothron added.
The Briar Jumpers will begin play in the Boy’s All A State Tournament next Thursday night at 6 p.m. at Frankfort’s Convention Center.
Somerset will face Newport Central Catholic in the opening round of the tournament.
D — 9 11 12 16 — 48
SHS — 15 7 14 22 — 58
DANVILLE — Gateskill-Fuqua 19, Burnside 11, Alcorn 10, Woolridge 5, Karapandzic 3.
SOMERSET — R. Dishman 14, Williams 13, Purcell 11, Cheuvront 8, Weddle 8, Gordon 4.