• Rick Capone, Sports Editor

Yellow Jackets finish 2-2 in Jessamine Co. tourney

The Woodford County High School boys’ basketball team had their “moments” during the Farmers Bank of Jessamine County basketball tournament, which was played at East and West Jessamine High Schools, Wednesday through Friday, Dec. 21 to 23. The Yellow Jackets’ first three games in the tournament were held at East Jessamine High School. In the team’s opening game on Wednesday, Dec. 21, Woodford lost a close contest to North Oldham 55-52. Sophomore Brandon Cromwell led the team in scoring with 21 points, while sophomore Corey George had a team-leading 13 rebounds. “North Oldham is a very solid team that executed their game plan very well,” said Woodford head coach Ryan Wilson. “They play extremely hard pressure defense and we were able to get a lot of great looks at the basket. Unfortunately, we just were not able to get our shots to fall.” However, Woodford bounced back in their next game on Thursday, Dec. 22, and defeated East Jessamine, 55-44. In the game, George had 15 points and five boards to lead the team in both statistical categories. “Once we were able to figure out where the open spots were against EJ match-up zone, we became a very effective team and shared the ball extremely well in order to get a lot of easy looks at the rim,” said Wilson. “Defensively, it was one of better performances on the year.” The Yellow Jackets then had two games on Friday, Dec. 23. The first was a tough loss to Harlan County, 62-46. Stromberg led the team in scoring with 17 points, while George and junior Nick Smith pulled down five rebounds each. But, as they did after their first game loss, Woodford bounced back once again and defeated West Jessamine, at West Jessamine High School 69-63 to finish the tournament with a 2-2 record. In the game, the team was led by Stromberg, who had 25 points, and George, who had 21. Stromberg and George also led the team in rebounds with five each. “Stromberg and George were men among boys (on this night) and they were very efficient and effective on both ends of the floor,” said Wilson. “Overall, this was a great team win and a much needed win over a highly ranked 12th Region team on their home floor heading into break.” Going into the game against Harlan County, the Black Bears were undefeated at 10-0 and No. 1 in the 13th Region. But, their record did not seem to bother Woodford, as the Yellow Jackets quickly opened up a 6-0 lead on two shots by junior Nicholas Smith and one by senior Keagan Stromberg. The Yellow Jackets’ quick start did seem to put the Black Bears on their heels for a while, but they slowly began to come back, and with Woodford ahead 10-8, Harlan County hit a three-pointer to take an 11-10 lead. On the Jackets’ next possession, senior Trevor White answered back with a three-pointer to give Woodford a short-lived 13-11 lead as Harlan County responded with another three-pointer, which gave them a 14-13 lead. The Black Bears then scored four unanswered points to end the first quarter with an 18-13 lead. In the second quarter, Harlan County maintained their lead, and no matter how hard Woodford fought, the closest the Jackets would get was six points, 32-26, at the half. In the third quarter, the Yellow Jackets struck first when Stromberg hit a nice jump shot to make it 32-28. Then, following two free throws by Harlan County, Stromberg took a pass, drove to the basket and put it in to make it a four-point game at 34-30. After that, it seemed that for every shot Woodford made, Harlan County had an answer and by the end of the third, the Black Bears led 44-35. As the two teams entered the fourth quarter, no matter how hard they tried, the Yellow Jackets were unable to catch up, as Harlan County answered Woodford almost shot for shot, and when the final horn sounded, the Black Bears had the win, 62-46. “We had a nice little stretch there in the third,” said Wilson. “I think we had moments where we really played well together, but we kind of let one bad thing happen and we (hung) our heads down a little bit and kind of (got) discouraged. “… We’re not going to be good enough on any given night just to show up and beat somebody. As I said earlier in the year, we’ve got to be the tougher team every night. And, that’s what we’re missing. We’re missing some toughness and that’s what we’re trying to figure out.” According to Wilson, the leadership on the team is something that needs to be worked on. However, one player, for sure, has been showing some good leadership. “I’m very, very proud of Keagan,” said Wilson. “He’s one of those guys that’s stepped up. He’s been a very good vocal leader. He’s been a leader on the floor. He’s played with a lot of that toughness that we’ve expected. I think we’re slowly starting to see him kind of break out of his comfort zone and doing some things that he’s not used to doing with his leadership. He’s holding people accountable, and that’s what we need.” Another player Wilson noted for his play in the game was George. “Corey knows what he does well, and that’s what he does,” said Wilson. “Right now I think Corey leads our team with assists. So, passing is what he does well, and that’s what he’s going to do. He’s (also) going to shoot those mid-range jump shots. He’s going to get his hands on a lot of basketballs (and make a pass). “I’ve been very proud of him. For a six-foot sophomore post player in the 11th Region, I couldn’t ask for much more than he’s doing for us. And, he’s only going to get better with every game.” Next up, Woodford concludes play in the Lloyd Memorial Tournament at Lloyd Memorial High School. At press time, the opponents and game times were not determined. A report on the tournament will appear in next week’s Woodford Sun.

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