By STEVE CORNELIUS, CJ Sports Editor
After enduring a mid-season coaching change, along with a mid-season slump, the Somerset Christian boys basketball team has finally got back on track and are in late-season top form.
This past weekend, the Cougars captured the Kentucky Christian Athletic Association Region 4 title after pulling out a dramatic 48-47 win over Wesley Christian in the tournament finals.
Somerset Christian sophomore Jacob Ricks nailed two free throws with two seconds left in the game to secure the Cougars’ Region 4 gold trophy.
In the championship game against Wesley, the fourth quarter was a battle for the Cougars. They came out very determined, and they were not going to lose this game. But with a little more than three minutes left in the game, the Cougars were down by six points.
Cougar junior Colby Alexander connected on a three-pointer to cut the Cougars’ deficit in half. Still down by three points and heading into the final minute of the game, the Cougars Daniel Ellenberg comes up with a steal and is fouled going to the basket. He hits one free throw to cut the lead to two points.
Wesley Christian’s Goble hits a big basket to put the Riders back up by 4 points. The Cougars hurry the ball up the floor and get it into junior Hunter Reed's hands, as he scores and is fouled. Reed hits the free throw and the Cougars are now trailing by only one point.
The Riders try to get the ball into Goble’s hands, but he is tripled team and the Cougars head up the floor with 15 seconds to go. Ellenberg drives and hands the ball off to Alexander, he drives towards the basket and hands it off to Jacob Ricks, who drives towards the basket and is fouled by Goble before he can put the shot up.
The Circuit Riders are over the foul limit so Ricks will be on the line with two seconds and a chance to win it for the Cougars.
“I call a timeout to make sure we all know what we are doing in the next couple of seconds,” Cougars’ coach Kirk Stickley stated. “The look in (Ricks’) eyes told me that he had this. He steps to the line, comes out of his crouch and nails the first shot. The rest of the Cougars are pulled back to half court. Ricks takes a deep breath, crouches down, comes up, releases and hits nothing but net.”
“The game resembled an old-fashioned tug-of-war,” Stickley added. “We have been looking at the breakdown of a game as battles. Each quarter is a ‘battle’. In this game we won two battles, lost one and tied one. As long as we make each battle close then we can end up coming out on top at the end.”
At the start of the game, Wesley’s Colton Caldwell came out hot scoring 8 points on his own. Devin Kendrick added 5 of his 7 points in the first quarter. The Cougars countered with Hunter Reed tossing in 6 points, Daniel Ellenberg knocked down a 3-pointer and Tyler Burton added 2. A couple of costly turnovers right at the end of the quarter helped give Wesley a four-point lead.
Then it was the Cougars turn to tug. Keeping the lane jammed and harassing Wesley’s 6’6” center, the Cougars were able to hold Wesley to two 3-pointers and a field goal in the second quarter. Hunter Reed kept his torrid shooting up adding 4 points, Colby Alexander got into the scoring column with 4 points and Ellenberg chipped in 2 points. The Cougars would have had the lead at half if not for Caldwell hitting a clutch 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The third quarter was a draw, both teams scoring 10 points. A lot of blocked shots and good defense highlighted the third quarter. Goble lead the Circuit Riders with 6 points.
For Somerset Christian, Alexander and Burton each dropped 4 points and Reed added 2 more points to his total.
“I am very happy for these boys, they have endured a lot to get to this point,” Stickley stated. “They put in a lot of work, and lop-sided scores the past few years, but Coach Skaggs has built them into a championship team. I am just blessed to be a small part of their success. Their work ethic was already in place when I came on as an assistant coach this past summer, it’s that work ethic that has carried them through the difficult times this year.”
“Now, we want to finish the next step and that is a state title,” Stickley exclaimed. “It won’t be easy, but we will definitely put in the work to get it done.”
Hunter Reed and Colby Alexander shared high-scorer honors with 15 points each. Reed was 7-of-11 from the field, with 4 rebounds. Alexander led the team with 8 rebounds. Tyler Burton was in double figures with 10. Daniel Ellenberg added 6 points and Jacob Ricks had 2 points and 2 assists for the game.
The Cougars’ Hunter Reed was named KCAA Region 4 Tournament MVP, while teammates Jacob Ricks and Colby Alexander were named to the Region 4 All-Tournament team.
Somerset Christian will now advance to the KCAA State Tournament at Asbury University, where they will meet up with Cornerstone Christian Academy on Friday, March 1, at 4:30 p.m.
SCS 11 10 10 17 – 48
WC 15 8 10 14 – 47
The Cougars downed Lakeside Christian 71-49 in the Region 4 semifinal game.
Hunter Reed led the Cougars in scoring with 23 points on 11-of-13 shooting. He also led Somerset Christian in rebounding with 9.
Jacob Ricks added 16 points by hitting 8-of-10 free throws. Ricks went 4-of-4 in the fourth quarter from the line. Ricks pulled down 6 rebounds and had 2 assists. His aggressive play set the tone in the first quarter of the semifinals.
Colby Alexander had a solid game, scoring 11 points, gathering 4 rebounds, and dishing out 2 assists.
Daniel Ellenberg was the Cougars’ fourth player in double figures, with 10 points. He nailed two big 3-pointers in the first quarter to help Somerset Christian come out hot. Ellenberg also pulled down 4 rebounds and had 2 assists.
Tyler Burton added 8 points and 4 rebounds and played a very good defensive game against Lakeside’s talented center, Phillip Bradley, holding him to just two points in the first half.
Tanner Lewis chipped in with a 3-pointer for his only points of the game.
SCS 23 15 17 16 – 71
LC 8 10 19 12 – 49