• Bill Caine, Woodford Sun Sports Editor

Jackets reach 11th Region semifinals with win over LCA

The Woodford County High School boys' basketball team advanced to the 11th Region semifinals with a 63-49 over Lexington Christian Academy Monday, Feb. 25. The Jackets entered the game planning to slow down the Eagles' center Kyle Rode, who has been dominating Lexington schools all season. The Jackets defense smothered the Eagles for the entire game and aggressively rebounded the ball. "It was great to see the calm come over our guys tonight," said WCHS Coach Ryan Wilson. "They played together and trusted one another, and you see me yelling on the sidelines, but honestly, they are doing it all by going out and making plays.” The Eagles began the game on a 7-2 run before WCHS senior Brandon Cromwell hit a floater over Rode to cut the deficit to 7-4. The Jackets trailed 10-4 with 3:10 to play in the first quarter when senior Ben Nash and junior Ashton Myles-Devore hit three-pointers to tie the game at 10-10. WCHS senior Justin Alexander brought the Woodford crowd to its feet when he snatched a rebound over three Eagle defenders and scored while being fouled to convert a three-point play and tied the game at 15-15 to end the first quarter. "I really thought about the memories I have with this group of guys before the game, and I used that to fuel me tonight," said Alexander. "Coach Wilson always tells us that we have to go after it and be aggressive and I think we achieved that tonight." Both teams exchanged baskets early in the second quarter, and the game was tied 21-21. WCHS senior Corey George was terrific in keeping LCA's dominant center in check for much of the first half. Woodford finished the half on an 8-0 run on pair of free throws by Cromwell and threes from junior Anthony Tabor and Myles-Devore to lead 29-21 at halftime. The Jackets scored a pair of baskets to begin the third quarter and extended their lead to 12 points. The Eagles cut Woodford's lead to eight points with three minutes left in the third quarter, but the Jackets went on a 7-2 run and led 42-27 at the end of the third quarter. Woodford continued to pressure the LCA ballhandlers and forced back-to-back turnovers to begin the fourth quarter. The Jackets extended their lead 48-31 with five minutes left in regulation. Penn brought the Woodford crowd to its feet after a one-handed tomahawk dunk and Cromwell hit a three-pointer that forced LCA to take their final timeout. The Eagles fouled Woodford down the stretch, and the Jackets went 7-of-8 from the line in the closing minutes. "We knew we had to bring our best tonight and we gave them all they could handle," said Myles-Devore. "The district championship game hurt, but we knew that a lot of guys could have played in their last game tonight if we didn't compete at our level. Now we get to go to the semifinals and compete as hard as we can." District Championship The Jackets lost to Frankfort, 55-50, in the 41st District championship Friday, Feb. 22 at the Hive. The Jackets trailed for much of the game but stayed within punching distance for most of the game. The Panthers made critical free throws in the fourth quarter to hold onto their lead and secure the win. "We did what we had to do to advance by winning the first district game," said Wilson. "Tonight we could have and should have done some things, but we are willing to fix it. Last year the two teams that made it to the finals at Rupp Arena didn't win their district tournament, so we know its possible. We have to recharge our batteries and see what the regional tournament brings." The Panthers began the game on an 8-2 run and silenced the standing room only home crowd. Cromwell cut Woodford's deficit in half, 8-5, with a three-pointer from the top of the key. Frankfort center John Tillman scored four straight points to give the Panthers a 12-5 lead with 2:10 to play in the first quarter. Nash scored on a tip-in over a pair of Panther defenders, and Alexander scored in the paint, but the Jackets trailed 18-11 at the end of the first quarter. The Jackets fell behind by nine points early in the second quarter, but a layup by junior Ashton Myles-Devore and baskets by Tabor and George cut Woodford's deficit to four points with a minute to play in the half. Tillman scored in the post with 25 seconds to play, but Myles-Devore hit a three-pointer to cut the Woodford deficit to 25-22 at halftime. The Jackets committed five fouls early in the third quarter, but continued to pressure the Panther ballhandlers. Cromwell was fouled while scoring over Tillman and converted the free throw. The Panthers went on a 5-0 run late in the quarter and Cromwell hit another three-pointer to bring the Jackets within six points heading to the fourth quarter. The Panthers took advantage of Jacket turnovers and increased their lead to 48-38 early in the fourth quarter. Cromwell scored five straight points, and Woodford appeared to gain momentum as Frankfort called timeout. The Jackets fouled the Panthers to stop the clock, but the Panthers converted to increase their lead back to 10 points with less than a minute in regulation. Nash hit a three-pointer from the wing, and Tabor added a layup to cut Woodford's deficit to 53-48 with 12 seconds on the clock. Tillman was fouled and made both free throws to secure the win. "A loss like this will definitely fuel our fire for the regional tournament," said WCHS sophomore Hunter Penn. "I think our tough schedule all year has prepared us for the postseason and we need to rely on that experience this season to advance."

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