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Jaguars postseason run ends with 57-41 loss to Boyle County

By Clinton Riddle
Contributing Writer

The East Jessamine Jaguars have come a long way, according to their head coach. Anyone who has watched them play in the past few years would surely agree.

This year, it took them all the way to the second round of the 12th Region Boys Basketball Tournament, where they defeated Rockcastle County in the first round of play.

Their opponent in the second round gave them all they could handle. The top-ranked Boyle County’s Rebels defeated the Jaguars, 57-41, and thus East Jessamine was eliminated from the playoffs. But there’s little doubt that they left everything they had on the hardwood at Lincoln County High School.

Boyle County would ultimately win the 12th Region tourney, and will play in the KHSAA Boys Sweet Sixteen at Rupp Arena on April 1st.

“The one thing we didn’t want to happen is we didn’t want it to become a track meet,” said head coach Matthew Chewning. “And when we went cold in the second half, there’s no other way to describe it. We quit making shots, and it turned into a track meet.”

Boyle County notably controlled the paint on rebounds consistently throughout the second half, a fact that Chewning also mentioned. While the Rebels out-rebounded the Jags by six, overall (39-33), much of their dominance of the baseline came in the second half, when East Jessamine was beginning to run out of steam.

“And what do you say when you preach ‘box out, box out, keep your fundamentals’ all week, and it just doesn’t happen?” he continued, concerning the Rebels’ rebounding and second-chance shots. “That’s what they do. That’s part of why they’re as good as they are.”

East Jessamine was controlling both the tempo and the lead for much of the first half, but Boyle County managed to turn the tide towards the end of the second quarter. This momentum carried over into the second half and rarely subsided for the rest of the game.

“I think when we turned it over coming out of the half, they went down and scored,” coach Chewning recalled, “then we missed a layup and they took it down and scored again. And that’s when things began to turn.”

The Jaguars shot 25.9% from the field as a team, hitting just three of 21 from beyond the arc. Ben McNew led the team in scoring with 12 points, with Collin McElfresh and Zion Thomas scoring seven each. Cam Thompson scored six in the game, Caleb Smith scored four, Devin Johnson had only three points on 1-10 shooting, and Will Hatter rounded out the scoring with two on his only two-point attempt.

Chewning didn’t hold back on his praise of the team, either. “Our guys played their guts out,” he said, emphatically. “I can’t complain one bit about the effort our guys showed tonight. But that’s been that group, all year, and it’s a testament to the senior class.”

He concluded by noting how much these players have done for the East Jessamine basketball program, and how that effort would carry forward in the coming years.

“Like, you guys may not be able to see it now,” he said of his team, “but five or ten years from now, you’ll be able to look back and say, ‘I did that. I was a part of that.’”