A rare year in the 12th Region

It isn’t every year that the 12th Region gets a team into the semifinals of a state basketball tournament, and it’s almost unheard of that it would happen twice in the same year.

But it has happened this year. West Jessamine’s 72-67 victory over Grayson County in a quarterfinal game today at the Boys Sweet Sixteen, coupled with Casey County’s success last week in the Girls Sweet Sixteen, gave the 12th two semifinalists in one season.

How many times has that happened before? Exactly once.

It was just three years ago, when South Laurel pulled this rare double all by itself. The Cardinals won the boys championship with victories over Ohio County, Elizabethtown, Pleasure Ridge Park and Warren Central, and the Lady Cardinals reached the semifinals of the girls tournament wins wins over Ohio and Montgomery County before losing to Lexington Catholic.

There may be those who say that Casey’s girls and West Jessamine’s boys had more favorable roads to the round of four than the other semifinalists, and that may be true. But getting to play on Saturday morning (and perhaps beyond in West Jessamine’s case) is still a noteworthy feat for any team — from any region.

I’ve taken a lot of heat from some of my friends on press row in about the state of basketball — and particularly boys basketball — in the 12th Region in recent years, and most of it has been merited. But this year I can finally stick up for my region, and all of us who follow teams in the 12th can feel a little better about that.

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West Jessamine won its second close game of the tournament, getting 22 points, nine rebounds and seven assists from Jarrod Polson and placing three other scorers in double figures. The Colts led for the last 19 minutes, 14 seconds as they secure their spot in the Saturday morning session.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” Polson said. “At the beginning of the season, no one would’ve thought that we’d have gotten this far. … I’d have been shocked.”

The Colts shot 56.8 percent from the field and also made hay at the free-throw line, where they were 26-for-36. Polson went 8-for-11 at the line, Nick Ziemann and Jonathan Rehner were each 6-for-8 and Randy Troyer was 4-for-7. They were one made free throw away from becoming the 20th team in state tournament history to score at least 27 points at the foul line.

West Jessamine plays Central in a Saturday morning semifinal. Central advanced with a 71-65 upset of Eastern, one of the favorites to win the tournament and a team that had beaten Central 78-55 on Feb. 10.

West Jessamine coach Robert Hammonds realized his team would face a much tougher foe in its semifinal than the first two it has seen, but he said after his game and before the Central-Easter game, “Really, there’s no pressure on us. If we come out and hit some shots early, who knows?”

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A former 12th Region was honored as part of this year’s class for the Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches’ Court of Honor today.

Gerald Sinclair, whose coaching stops included Forkland, Wayne County and Boyle County before he led Logan County to the 1984 state championship, was the 4th Region honoree.

Former Somerset, Marshall County and Henry Clay coach Kirk Chiles was honored from the 12th Region.

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