By DOUG EADS, CJ Correspondent
The year 1989 will always be remembered as a wild and wacky 365 days in U.S. history for a number of reasons.
In 1989, George H. Bush was inaugurated as the 41st President of the United States, we witnessed the fall of the Berlin wall, the Oakland A’s swept the San Francisco Giants 4-0 in what would become known as the ‘Earthquake Series’, Batman was the top-grossing movie for the year in America, and a rock group known as Milli Vanilli won the Grammy for being the Best New Artist, only to have that award stripped a year later for lip-synching.
1989 was also the last time the Somerset Briar Jumpers played in a 12th Regional Tournament championship game — that is until now.
Mercer County and Somerset were not supposed to still be alive in the semi finals of this year’s regional tourney, yet last night at Lincoln County High School, there stood the Titans and Briar Jumpers one win away from the title game.
And, thanks to a prolific performance for much of the night at the offensive end of the court, Jeff Cothron and company will make that trip to the regional tourney championship game for the first time in 24 years.
Ryan Weddle and Tyson Williams led a balanced scoring attack on Friday night for Somerset, scoring 13 points each, as Cothron’s club improved to 20-9 on the season with a 58-48 victory over Mercer County, setting up a much anticipated rematch tonight against Wayne County in the title game.
“We came out really looking to establish our inside presence tonight, and I thought we were able to do that,” pointed out coach Cothron after his team’s victory.
“I thought our kids did a really good job tonight of being patient and then looking inside and really moving the ball,” added the Somerset coach. “Even our outside shots tonight — we got a lot of wide open looks and we made most of them.”
Somerset only trailed one time last night — 2-0 — but after a Cam Cheuvront trey put the Jumpers ahead 3-2, Somerset would never relinquish the lead to Mercer County again.
Somerset ended the first period on a 9-0 run, breaking a 7-7 tie, and led comfortably for the rest of the half, thanks primarily to Mercer County’s inability to slow down the inside tandem of Weddle and Williams.
And, when the Titans were able to thwart or slow down Somerset’s inside game, Ryan Dishman and Cheuvront hurt Mercer County from behind the three-point line making some clutch shots from downtown.
The Jumpers led for much of the night, enjoying a six to nine point lead, until Mercer County made one final charge in the fourth quarter.
A Jordan Duncan hoop to begin the fourth quarter cut the Somerset lead down to 42-38, but the Briar Jumpers would respond.
Somerset would go on another 9-0 run, to finally take complete control of the game leading the Titans by a 51-38 margin.
Weddle completed an old-fashioned three-point play during that spurt, Austin Coomer would score on a layup after a steal by Ryan Dishman, and Cheuvront would add a pair of free throws, after Mercer County’s Russell Sims was called for an intentional foul on Somerset’s point guard.
At that juncture — leading Mercer County by that 51-38 cushion — Somerset had this one well in hand.
“My hat’s off to our kids, because they came out and competed, and came out and took control of this game from the get-go,” pointed out Cothron.
“This bunch has just come a long way — as far as maturity, confidence, and just all aspects of improvement,” Cothron remarked.
With the win, Somerset will now meet up against Wayne County tonight in the championship game of the 12th Regional Tournament — setting up a big-time rematch between the two clubs for a variety of reasons.
Number one — Somerset is one of few teams that already own a victory over the Cardinals this season.
Wayne County will bring a sparkling, 26-7 record into tonight’s contest, however last month on February 5th at The Briar Patch, Ryan Dishman’s three-point play in the closing seconds broke a 59-59 tie, giving Somerset a hard-fought, 62-59 victory over the Cards.
Number two — as far as 1989 goes — well that’s the last time Somerset played in a regional championship game, losing 66-64 in overtime to — you guessed it — Wayne County.
So coach Cothron, how does it feel to have your alma mater in the regional title game for the first time in 24 years?
“If I could sum it up in one word, it would be ‘unbelievable’,” stated Cothron.
“These kids have bought in from the get-go, and they’ve worked extremely hard and they’ve accepted coaching,” added the Somerset coach. “My staff has done a great job, so it’s great to be doing what they’re doing right now, and be able to sit back and watch it. We’re awfully excited to be here, and we have one goal in mind, and that’s to win tomorrow night.”
Tip off for tonight’s championship game of the 12th Regional Basketball Tournament will get underway from Lincoln County High School at 7:30 p.m.
The winner of tonight’s Somerset—Wayne County game will play the very first game of next week’s Sweet 16 Tournament at Rupp Arena, which tips off next Wednesday at Noon.
The 12th Regional champion will face the winner of the 11th Region in that first game of the state tournament.
The 11th Regional Tournament championship game will take place tonight as well at EKU’s McBrayer Arena at 7:30 p.m.
In that game, Lexington Catholic will face Madison Central.
SHS — 7 13 16 12 — 48
MC — 16 12 14 16 — 58
SOMERSET — Williams 13, Weddle 13, R. Dishman 12, Cheuvront 10, Gordon 8, Coomer 2.
MERCER CO. — Hager 18, Ingram 9, Duncan 8, Pennington 6, Warren 4, Sims 3.