LIBERTY — It was a bitter pill for Somerset coach Shawn Thacker and his Briar Jumper team to swallow as they were upset by Rockcastle County 48-38 in the first round of the 47th District Tournament at Casey County High School.
Somerset had flexed their muscle all year long by breezing through district play with a 5-1 record, which earned them the top seed, and the Jumpers had posted the best overall season record in the entire region.
“Going in the district tournament, I felt like Somerset had a good enough team to win the region,” Rockcastle County first-year coach Benny Blanton said.
Despite shooting a cold 27 percent from the field, Somerset led Rockcastle 38-36 with 3:12 left in the game. But down the stretch, costly turnovers and seven missed shots resulted in Rockcastle going on a 12-0 run to close out the game and pick up the first round upset win over Somerset.
“I can’t explain why we played the way we played tonight,” Somerset coach Shawn Thacker said. “Defensively we did the things we had to do, but we didn’t take care of the basketball and we had too many unforced turnovers. Offensively, I felt like we missed a lot of good looks that we normally make and we didn’t get those shots to go down.”
“We didn’t play with a lot of poise and a lot of composure and I guess I have to take the blame for that,” Thacker added. “We just didn’t get it done tonight.”
Somerset would open the game with a 10-5 lead after the first quarter. Late in the second quarter, Ross Deaton scored on a layup, set up by an Eric Wilson steal, to give the Jumpers a 17-11 lead.
Rockcastle’s Colby Brown scored 8 points in the second quarter and kept the Rockets within striking distance with Somerset leading at halftime 19-15
In the third quarter, a three-pointer by Somerset’s Corey Price, a three-pointer by Ross Deaton and two made free throws by Price gave the Jumpers their largest lead of the game at 31-24 with 1:39 left in the period. But a double pump inside shot by Rockcastle’s Brown and an acrobatic three-point play by Gabe Stallsworth brought the Rockets within two points at 31-29 at the end of the third quarter.
Throughout most of the second half Rockcastle put fullcourt defensive pressure on Somerset that forced the Jumpers to turn the ball over 11 times in the second half.
“I wanted to pick up the tempo a little bit in the game,” Blanton said. “I knew if we slowed it down (Somerset) would beat us in a halfcourt set. We tried to speed up the game a little bit and fortunately things worked out for us in the end.”
When Somerset did break the press to get a good look at the basket, the Jumpers were unable to convert, which resulted in only seven points scored in the final quarter.
“The press hasn’t bothered us all year,” Thacker said in bewilderment. “We had people going to the wrong places, doing the wrong things, doing things they weren’t suppose do and running off and leaving the ball.”
In the final quarter, there were four lead changes. In the final two minutes of the game, both teams had trouble converting as both teams went scoreless from the two-minute mark until the one-minute mark.
With 41 seconds left in the game and Rockcastle leading 41-38, Somerset had the ball under their own basket and threw the ball away on an inbounds pass. Rockcastle capitalized with two made free throws by Coty Childress to give the Rockets a 43-38 lead. Somerset would get four more shots at goal in the final 39 seconds of the game and came away empty-handed as Rock’s Kyle Mullins hit a free throw and Brown hit four free throws to give the Rockets their 48-38 win.
“Rockcastle scored some points towards the end of the game, but our defense wasn’t the issue,” Thacker stated. “The issue was that we didn’t score either. We didn’t get any fastbreak baskets because we either didn’t catch it or we didn’t finish it or we didn’t make the right pass.”
“When we had our opportunities, we didn’t get the points,” Thacker added.
With the loss, the Jumpers ended the season with an impressive 20-7 record, but for the second year in a row Somerset was eliminated in their first game of the district tournament.
The Jumpers were led in scoring by Ray Norman with 9 points, Corey Price with 9 points and Ross Deaton with 8 points. Rockcastle’s Colby Brown led all scorers with 24 points and teammate Coty Childress added 12 points.
Meanwhile, Rockcastle improves to 12-16 and will play for the District 47 title on Friday, March 3 at 7 p.m. against the winner of the Pulaski County-Casey County game, that will be played tonight at 7 p.m.
RC 5 10 14 19 — 48
SHS 10 9 12 7 — 38
Rockcastle (12-16) — Brown 24, Childress 12, Mullins 8, Stallsworth 3, Riddle 1.
Somerset (20-7) — Norman 9, Price 9, Deaton 8, Holton 4, Bourne 4, Wilson 2, Sharpe 2.