By MICHAEL CHILDERS, CJ Correspondent Commonwealth Journal
In most tournaments, you get a good draw or a much easier opponent in the first round.
That's not case in the Lake Cumberland Holiday Hoops Classic, as all the teams in the first annual tournament are top-notch ball clubs.
Somerset faced off against a familiar team on Thursday night in the opening round of the tournament, facing off against long-time 12th Region rival Danville.
Just as rivalries normally do, this one went right down to the wire, as the homestanding Briar Jum-pers came away with a 49-41 victory over the Danville Admirals at the Briar Patch.
Jeff Cothron’s Jumper squad took the lead from the very get-go, but the Admirals would comeback to take the lead from Somerset late in the third period. However, the ‘Purple and Gold’ would hold on for the eight-point victory, allowing them to move on in the winner’s bracket in tourney action.
“We knew Danville would come in and give us their best effort - and I felt like they did,” began the first-year Jumper basketball coach. “It’s always good to start out with a win, no matter who you play or how you play.”
With 1:29 remaining in the third frame, the Admirals took their first - and only - lead of the evening after Alex Burnside dribbled the length of the floor for a lay-up to put his team up by a lone point at 35-34. Somerset senior big man Ryan Weddle tallied a basket with eight seconds left in the frame to put the Jumpers back out front, 36-35.
Weddle’s hot hand would continue into the fourth period, as he tallied back-to-back baskets to open quarter. Thanks to Weddle’s pair of shots, Somerset grabbed a five-point, 40-35 lead over Danville.
With the Jumpers leading 40-37 with just over five minutes left to play, the ballgame got very interesting. Cothron wanted his team to slow down a bit on their offensive possessions, so he wanted the ball passed out to the top, where Cam Cheuvront was standing.
Standing would be all that Cheuvront and the other nine players on the floor would do for well over two minutes. The Admirals allowed Somerset to stall with the ball, eating a lot of time off the clock.
“We’re struggling on our possessions, and rushing on the offensive end,” told Cothron. “We were sitting there with a three-point lead, so I said ‘Back it out.’ I don’t know what provoked them not to come out and guard any quicker then they did, but it worked to our favor.”
A lay-up from Matt Gordon would put the Jumpers ahead 42-37 with 1:43 left. From then on, it was a free-throw shooting contest, a battle that Somerset won.
Ryan Dishman paved the way for the Jumpers with a game-high 18 points, which included a pair of three-pointers. Weddle joined Dishman in double figures, scoring 10 points.
Tyson Williams, who finished with seven points for Somerset, had a game-high 10 rebounds.
Danville was led in scoring by Burnside, who tallied nine points in the game.
With the victory, Somerset earned a second round match-up with Harrison County, who advanced after running away in a victory over Louisville Southern.
“Harrison County is a solid team,” stated the Somerset coach. “They’ve got a lot of size, they’re aggressive, and they play hard. They’ll definitely present a challenge for us, so we’ll have to come out and play. The key for us will be defensive intensity. We’ll have to do a lot better job defensively and play with a lot more intensity on defense.”
The game story from last night’s Harrison County-Somerset game will appear in Sunday’s sports section of the Commonwealth Journal.
The winner of this game will play the winner of the Southwestern-Lou. Manual game today at 8:30 p.m. at the Wigwam, on the campus of Southwestern High School. The loser of this game will square-off against the loser of the Southwestern-Lou. Manual contest today at Somerset at 6:45 p.m.