SOUTHWESTERN—The Southwestern Warriors, a.k.a. “The Fastest Game in Town,” ran into the proverbial bump in the road last night, in the championship game of the Boy’s 48th District Basketball Tournament.

The 16-9 McCreary Central Raiders invaded the Wigwam, and for one half at least, the visitors from Stearns proved they could stay in the fast lane with Dave Schulz and crew, and were a worthy opponent for a district championship.

Problem however for Robert Jones’ young club, was the fact the Raiders had no answer for Southwestern’s Dustin Fothergill in the second half.

Fothergill tallied 26 of his game-high 35 points after the intermission, and thanks to the Warriors offensive execution in the second half, (shooting 14 of 22 from the floor for a torrid, 63.6 percent,) Southwestern erased a 34-30 halftime deficit, to claim the district championship with a hard-fought 75-60 victory over the Raiders.

For the Warriors, it marked the first time Southwestern had cut down the nets in a district tourney title game, since the 2000 season, when Dave Schulz and company knocked off Somerset at North Laurel High School.

And, Schulz for one was elated that his club was able to seal the deal, running the table against district foes, capping off an undefeated regular season within the district, not to mention a district title.

“Without question, we had to step up our game a little bit more defensively in the second half,” noted a very jubilant Southwestern coach, after his club improved to 20-8 on the year with the win.

“We’ve taken a lot of pride this year in our man to man defense, and very rarely have we gone zone, but they forced us to go zone tonight,” Schulz added.

Indeed, the Raiders came out and took things right at the Warriors.

Eighth grader Aaron Watts led the charge out of the gate for McCreary, as he tallied 15 points in the first half.

McCreary Central, as a team, shot a blistering, 61.1 percent from the field in the opening half of play, hitting on 11 of 18 field goal attempts, which included going 6 of 8 from downtown.

In short, the Raiders were beating Southwestern at its own game, knocking down three-pointer after three-pointer.

But, the tide turned, and turned in a big way in the third stanza.

Southwestern began the frame on a 12-0 spurt, and it was the Warriors senior, Fothergill, that led the charge.

Fothergill scored on an ally-oop layup to kick off the second half, and then, on the next trip downcourt, he drained one of his six treys in the contest, giving the Warriors the lead for good, 35-34.

A Casey Dalton three and free throw, extended the lead to 39-34, forcing the Raiders to take a timeout.

Jonathan Edwards then got in on the act, with one of his two treys in the contest, and all of a sudden, Schulz and crew found themselves up by eight points midway through the third period, 42-34.

But, it was Fothergill that made all the difference, as he outscored the Raiders by himself in the third period, scoring 14 points in the quarter, as the Warriors won the frame, 23-13, to take a 53-47 lead into the fourth quarter of play.

“All season long, I’ve been saying that Dustin Fothergill is a difference maker, and that’s what he was tonight, he was a difference maker,” stated Schulz. “This whole team just put in a great effort, and it was a great team effort and a great team win.”

As for Jones, despite the loss by his young Raider team, without a single senior in its starting lineup, the McCreary Central coach stated he couldn’t ask for any more than his team gave him in the loss.

“Southwestern is one of the best teams in the region, and we knew it would take the best effort that our team could have,” noted Jones immediately after the contest.

“We’re starting two juniors, two sophomores, and an eighth grader on Southwestern’s home floor, and we were prepared to do what we had to do to win the game,” Jones said. “We executed our game plan in the first half to perfection. I’ll say perfection, because that was about as good of a first half as we can play. We came out in the second half, and they made some adjustments, and then we didn’t get out on Fothergill, and he got some good looks early, and he got started, and when he gets started, he’s very difficult to stop.”

Leading by those six points headed into the fourth period, 53-47, the Warriors put the pesky Raiders away over the final eight minutes, by outscoring McCreary in the fourth quarter, 22-13.

A Fothergill three about midway through the frame gave the Warriors a 64-53 advantage, and the Raiders got no closer than 9 points the rest of the way.

Fothergill led all scorers with 35 points in the win, while Edwards added 14, and Casey Dalton chipped in with 12 points.

The Warriors will go into next week’s 12th Regional Basketball Tournament with a 20-8 record, and a boat-load of momentum, while the Raiders will also qualify as the 48th District’s runner-up entry.

Southwestern, with that first district title in 6 years, has definitely solidified itself as a top, regional contender, but that didn’t keep Schulz from being very impressed with his district’s runner-up squad, McCreary Central.

Despite the 15-point win, Schulz noted the game was much closer than the final margin of victory indicated, and the Warrior head coach went on to say just how impressed he was with a very young, and much-improved Raider squad.

“They (McCreary Central) made us work for it tonight,” Schulz noted. “I told our kids before the game, that we felt like we deserved a district championship, but we were going to have to go earn it, and I thought we did.”

“McCreary showed up ready to play tonight, and what I was so impressed with them, wasn’t the fact that they were so hot early on, but they were executing their offense, and they just did a super job of running (Josh) Bartley off of some screens,” Schulz said.

McCreary was led by Watts’ 24 points, while Bartley chipped in with 17 points, and Josh Phillips added 11.

Southwestern and McCreary Central placed 5 of the 7 players on the 48th District All-Tournament Team, which was voted on by the media covering the tournament, and was announced immediately following the game.

Members of the squad were Jacob Gregory of Wayne County, Justin Branscum of Monticello, Aaron Watts and Josh Bartley from McCreary Central, while the Warriors trio of Jonathan Edwards, Casey Dalton, and Dustin Fothergill rounded out the squad.

The Boy’s 12th Regional Basketball Tournament will kick off next Monday night, from Pulaski County High School.

MC 17 17 13 13 60

SW 15 15 23 22 75


MC (60)—Watts 24, Bartley 17, Phillips 11, Swiger 8.

SW (75)—Fothergill 35, Edwards 14, Dalton 12, Sears 8, Rodgers 5, Wooldridge 1.

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