The Southwestern Warriors have a chance to be the first basketball team in school history to make a trip to the Sweet Sixteen State Basketball Tournament with the Warriors 67-55 win over East Jessamine on Friday at Pulaski County High School.

The win over East Jessamine didn’t come easy, but the Warriors pulled away in the final moments of the game to win the game and give themselves a chance to do something no other Warrior basketball team has ever done — win a regional championship. Southwestern made it to the region finals 1998 when they lost to Boyle County.

“This has been one of our goals to get a regional championship and this was done from our hard work all season long,” Southwestern sharp-shooter Jonathan Edwards said. “Now we have to finish it off tomorrow.”

Edwards scored 12 points in Southwestern’s win, but he took a charge against East Jessamine’s Eurich Downey to foul him out with 6:23 still left in the game.

With Southwestern leading 48-46, Edwards planted his feet at halfcourt and was knocked down by Downey to pick up his final foul and with Downey out East Jessamine had less of an inside presence.

“I kinda of seen (Downey) and he wasn’t really looking at me,” Edwards recalled. “He was looking up the floor and he didn’t see me, so I just stood there if he hit me he would hit me. Fortunately, the ref saw it and we got the charge and that was a big momentum swing.”

Prior to play East Jessamine was climbing back into the game after being down as many as 12 points in the second quarter and Downey was their big inside presence in that comeback.

“We started slupping off their point guard a little bit more and paid a little more attention doubling Downey, because he is such a terrific player,” Southwestern coach Dave Schulz said. “If he hadn’t got in foul trouble, we really would have made a dominant move to stop Downey and you are going to have to make the three and they are capable of doing that. Fortunately for us he got in foul trouble and that didn’t become a factor.”

East Jessamine tied the game at 48-48 after a 10-foot turnaround shot by Justin Sanders. But it was at that point that the Warriors started to play their best basketball of the game with one terrific hustle play after another.

“I think the biggest advantage we can take from this game is the last four minutes it was 48-48, we called a timeout and we said the team that executes the game the best down the stretch will win the game,” Schulz said. “That’s when we pulled together and got it going and went on the win by 10 points.”

“East didn’t change their strategy,” Schulz added. “We just started slipping screens a little bit better and started to see the floor better. We got some wide open layups at the end of the game, because we executed as a team and played a little bit more harmony.”

Southwestern went on a 17-5 run late in the game to secure a 12th Region semifinal win.

“We had some bounces that went our way and then we did some things that we create to make things go our way like that tip out by Dustin (Fothergill) and Jonathan (Edwards) drove hard to the glass a few times to make some crucial layups,” Schulz said. “We played solid defensively in a hard-fought basketball game. I don’t think it was necessarily our best effort, but we will definitely take it.”

With the win, Southwestern will play in the finals on Saturday, March 11, against Boyle County. But the Warriors are without two of their top players (Kirby Mayer and Casey Daugherty), which has Schulz a little concerned.

“(With two players out) doesn’t make our substitution rotation very difficult,” Schulz said with a grimace. “But I am concerned about it because we now have to recover and play again tomorrow night. We have got to do a good job of getting the kids rested, get them hydrated and get them ready for tomorrow night. They have always showed an toughness and they have developed a meanness throughout the season and they have always played hard.”

The Warriors took an early 17-14 lead off two treys by Edwards and a couple of underneath baskets by slashing Casey Dalton. The Warriors opened up a 12-point lead midway through the second when Dustin Fothergill started to find his range. But East Jessamine closed the Warrior lead to 36-29 by halftime.

The Warriors maintained the a six-point lead after three quarters and East Jessamine came back to tie the game at 48-48 at the 5:50 mark in the fourth quarter. Edwards hit two free throws to give the Warriors a lead and then Dalton and Fothergill took over offensively to secure the win. Fothergill lead all scorers with 27 points, while Dalton added 20 points for the Warriors.

For Dustin Fothergill, going to the state tournament has always been a dream of his.

“Winning a regional championship is real big,” Fothergill said. “That is all we have thought about all year and we always thought we had a chance. Now, it is coming true.”

For Mark Fothergill (Dustin’s dad and Warrior assistant coach)getting to see his son have a chance to be on a regional championship team is also a dream come true. Mark was on Somerset High School’s 1978 regional championship team as a player.

“It is 10 times more special when your kid does it than when you do it,” Mark Fothergill said with a large smile. “ When you do it, you are living the minute. When your child does it, you are living through them and wishing they can experience the same joy that you had experienced.”

“I am happy with the way he plays basketball and I am thrilled and feel blessed that he is such a good kid,” Fothergill said of his son.

EJ 14 15 13 13 — 55

SW 17 19 12 19 — 67

East Jessamine (55) — Sanders 15, Hanley 14, Whitley 12, Downey 10, Hager 4.

Southwestern (67) — Fothergill 27, Dalton 20, Edwards 12, Rogers 6, Sears 2.

Recommended for you