West Jessamine left Rupp Arena and the Boys Sweet Sixteen a few hours earlier than last year, but the Colts carried with them a fair amount of respect as a result of their body of work in the last two state tournaments.
The Colts’ season ended tonight with a 67-54 quarterfinal loss to Shelby Valley, but not before they gave one of the top teams in the field a run for its money. The 12th Region champions led 33-32 with 3:28 remaining in the third quarter before Shelby Valley took control of the game with a 9-0 run.
(Click here for the box score and play-by-play, and visit the Advocate’s sister paper, the Jessamine Journal, for its coverage of the Colts in Rupp Arena.)
West Jessamine (27-8) was led as usual by Jarrod Polson, who had 25 points, seven rebounds and five assists in his final high school game. Many fans in the so-called neutral sections of the arena rose to give Polson a standing ovation when he was taken out of the game in the final minute.
It’s hard to argue with West Jessamine coach Damon Kelly’s contention that Polson and Shelby Valley’s Elisha Justice are probably the two best point guards in the state. Justice had 28 points, five rebounds and two assists, and the two guards didn’t guard each other all that much as their respective coaches tried to keep them out of foul trouble.
This much I know: Polson is the best player to pass through the region in quite a few years, and he has earned a place on the list of the region’s all-time greats. His play over the course of the Colts’ two championship seasons left an impression that fans around the region and at the state tourney will long remember.
“It’s been a fun ride. It’s just unfortunate that it ended tonight,” he said.
It was also quite a ride for Kelly, who said he enjoyed every day of it.
“I couldn’t be prouder of my team. It’s a group of that I’ve been fortunate to be a part of for this past year, and I’m going to miss coming into the gym every day with them,” he said.
Kelly was fired by Lafayette just over a year ago and landed squarely on his feet in Nicholasville. He knew full well how lucky he was to inherit such a good team, and on several occasions he gave credit to his predecessor, Robert Hammonds, and said his “job was just to try not to screw it up.”
“I wish I could sit here and tell you that it was me, but I’m the same guy that got fired last year,” he said.
West Jessamine went just 9 for 28 from the field in the second half to finish at 39 percent, just below Shelby Valley’s mark of 43 percent. Worse than that was the fact that the Colts were outrebounded 39-22.
Gus Sherrow had nine points and Dylan Pohl had eight for the Colts. David Elliott had six rebounds.
West Jessamine, which reached the semifinals at last year’s state tourney, became the first 12th Region boys team to win at the Sweet Sixteen in consecutive years since Monticello went 6-4 in three straight appearances from 1958-60.
The Colts lose five of the seven players in their regular rotation to graduation, with only starting forward Pohl and reserve guard Bradley Strait returning next season. They won’t be expected to win a third straight regional title, but after what we’ve seen in the last two years, it will be hard to take them entirely out of the mix.