By STEVE CORNELIUS, CJ Sports Editor
For anyone wondering what the new era of Somerset basketball might look like under their new head coach Jeff Cothron — it took less than six minutes for everyone to find out.
In the first 5 1/2 minutes of the Briar Jumpers’ home opener against Rockcastle County, Somerset used a stingy defense and an aggressive ‘inside out’ offense to roar out to a 15-2 lead en route to their 78-66 district win over the Rockets.
“You are always anxious to get that first win, and it being a district game made it all that more important,” Cothron stated.
“We worked on defense significantly in practice and we put in a couple of things we hadn’t done before and Rockcastle struggled with that,” Cothron explained. “Also, we made some adjustments on some things we didn’t do well on after that first game (against Russell County).”
Junior guard Ryan Dishman nailed four treys in the opening quarter, while Somerset senior big men Tyson Williams, 6’5” 240, and Ryan Weddle, 6’8” 235, crashed the boards inside.
For the game, Dishman led all scorers with 27 points. Junior guard Cam Cheuvront added 15 points, while Williams scored 14 points and Weddle added 12 points.
After that initial 15-2 Briar Jumper run in the opening 5 1/2 minutes of the game, the closest the Rockets ever came to closing the gap on Somerset was a 9-point deficit late in the first quarter, after the Rockets’ Blake Mullins nailed back-to-back treys.
However, the Jumpers’ lead ballooned to 19 points late in the third quarter after a 8-0 run and a 7-0 run. Sandwiched in between those two Somerset mini-runs was another trey by Mullins, who led the Rockets with 17 points.
“Rockcastle had a couple of opportunities where the momentum swung their way, but I have to give our kids credit that they didn’t let it go that way,” Cothron said. “I was proud of their effort and their execution, for no longer than we have had everybody together as a team.”
Somerset took their biggest lead of the game at 75-52 with 4:10 left in the contest, thanks to a Weddle putback and a Tyler Dishman layup.
With a little over two minutes left in the game, the Briar Jumpers still led by 21 points. But with benches on both sides cleared, the Rockets ended the game on a ‘little too late’ 9-0 run.
Despite the seemingly lopsided deficits, Rockcastle had a strong perimeter game with 12 goals beyond the arc and the Rockets played a very physical man-to-man defense that made the Jumpers work hard on every offensive possession.
“We scouted Rockcastle 2 or 3 times and we knew they played a very physical type of defense, with pressure on the ball and denying the passing lanes,” Cothron stated. “We tried to prepare for Rockcastle’s physicality, and for the most part, our kids did a good job of handling it.”
However, the difference in the game was the Jumpers’ selective shooting of 56 percent from the field and 70 percent from the free throw line – on 20 attempts that came mostly in the second half.
Also, Somerset’s size came into play in the second half as the Jumpers outrebounded the Rockets 27 to 11 after halftime. Senior Matt Gordon led the Jumpers with 11 boards, while Ryan Weddle had 8 rebounds and Tyson Williams grabbed 5 rebounds.
After a road loss to Russell County High School earlier in the week, the Jumpers evened their record to 1-1 and upped their distinct record to 1-1.
The Jumpers traveled to Jackson County last night, and will be back home for another district match-up when they host Casey County High School on Tuesday, Dec. 11.
RC 11 13 18 24 – 66
SHS 23 14 24 17 — 78
ROCKCASTLE CO. (1-3) – Mullins 17, McPhetridge 14, Mason 12, Pensol 9, Wilson 5, Hasty 3, Reynolds 2.
SOMERSET (1-1) – Ryan Dishman 27, Cheuvront 15, Williams 14, Weddle 12, Tyler Dishman 5, Gordon 4, Coomer 1.