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Things might not go exactly according to the prescribed script but the final ending is all that really matters.
East Jessamine junior Ronnie Carson lit up host Anderson County for 54 points, a Jaguar record, but the Bearcats held on to prevail 94-91 in boys' basketball action Thursday night.
Carson riddled the Bearcats with an array of drives and spin moves that led his team all the way back from a 20-point deficit. According to Anderson statistics, Carson connected on 16-of-32 shots from the field and went 22-for-32 from the free throw line.
“I don't think I have ever had a game like this,” said veteran Anderson coach Glen Drury, known as a defensive guru. “We gave up 91 points in regulation and still won the basketball game.”
“Our inexperience showed,” East Jessamine coach Chris O'Bryan said. “But we kept fighting and I could not be happier with the effort.”
“We knew how good Carson was,” Drury continued. “He is one of the best players we will see this year. He is one of the fastest at getting the rebound and getting the ball to the other end of the floor I have seen in a long time.”
But the contest slowed as it turned into a free throw parade as the officials called 59 fouls and the teams combined for 87 free throws. The Bearcats hit theirs, sinking 38-of-43, but East Jessamine only sank 30-of-44 as a team.
Anderson overcame Carson’s career night with the one-two punch of guards Austin Cummins and Christian Estes blitzing the nets for 39 and 25 points, respectively. Luke Mann added 17 for the Bearcats.
Anderson went on a 13-0 spree midway through the first quarter to push the lead to 20-6. The Bearcats, who never trailed, extended the margin to as many as 17 when Estes sank a pair of free throws to make it 39-22 less than three minutes before halftime.
“For whatever reason, we were very tentative I the first half. The kids did not play like they did in the JV game when they were looking to score and were being aggressive. They were waiting to see what Anderson County was going to do. We talked about that at halftime,” O'Bryan said.
Carson, however, scored East Jessamine's last nine points of the half to keep the Jaguars within striking distance, 44-31, at the break.
East Jessamine pulled within 46-37 early in the second half, but the Bearcats answered with 12-1 run to go up 58-38 midway through the third quarter. The Bearcats seemed to be in full control with a 74-58 cushion heading into the final eight minutes, but Carson continued to work his magic while guard Hayden Smith and post man T.J.Ross, a transfer from Lexington Christian, both began to heat up.
Smith buried three of his five 3-pointers in the final eight minutes while Ross tallied all 12 of his points after Anderson led 64-44 late in the third frame.
“We got in such foul trouble that we couldn't play who we needed to at times down the stretch,: Drury said. “I had seen them against Pulaski County (in East Jessamine's) season-opener two nights before) and thought they might be able to get us into some foul trouble.
East chipped away, finally catching up at 87 when Carson completed a 3-point play with 1:15 to play.
Anderson did little to help its own cause late in the game, however, taking several ill-advised shots even after Drury had called for a timeout with 3:17 left and the Bearcats leading, 85-79. Drury said he emphasized killing clock and only taking good shots. “We have got to know the time and the score,” he said.
Estes, however, connected on all six of his free throw attempts in the final 68 seconds to lead Anderson to the win. The Bearcats have now won at least 18 consecutive season-openers.
“The sky is the limit for them,” O'Bryan said. “They just got (6-foot-4 Ross) Cox back from football and they have some kids that can shoot the ball. I think they have a real good chance to win the Eighth Region.”
East Jessamine, 23-8 a year ago, fell to 0-2.
“We will get better,” Drury said. “We had only had a day-and-a-half of practice with our two biggest guys (Cox and Darius Harvey, who were playing football until the day after Thanksgiving) and it is difficult to adjust the team and play games at the same time.
“East Jessamine is a good basketball team. They are young, but Carson is the kind of player that can carry you.”
One of the Eighth Region favorites almost found that out last Tuesday.