By DOUG EADS
Throughout the past many decades, it’s been one of the greatest rivalries in the state of Kentucky on the hardwood.
And on Monday night at Somerset’s Briar Patch, both the Briar Jumpers and the Pulaski County Maroons displayed the grit, spirit, hustle, and hard-play that demonstrated just how great this rivalry still is today.
Monday night’s contest between these two old 47th District and 12th Regional contenders did not disappoint, as both the Maroons and Jumpers delivered another great chapter in this storied rivalry.
Somerset used a 9-0 run in overtime erasing a three-point deficit, and then held on down the stretch for a hard-fought, 88-81 win over Pulaski County in an absolute thriller.
“I told the guys before the game that we had taken care of our business, and we were already 4-0 in the district, so there was really no pressure on us tonight,” stated a very happy Somerset head coach Jeron Dunbar immediately following the game.
“We just came out and wanted to have a fun game,” continued the Briar Jumper coach. “Yes, we wanted the number one seed all to ourselves, and we didn’t play with any pressure on us, so we went out and got it.”
Somerset — in a much-anticipated district showdown — came out and punched Pulaski County squarely in the mouth early on, racing out to a double digit lead at 17-7 in the first quarter.
However, the Maroons would settle in and come back at the Briar Jumpers with a few haymakers of their own.
Jake Combs scored seven points for Pulaski County in that opening stanza, and by halftime, Somerset’s lead stood only at a mere three points, 29-26.
Early in the second half, it was Combs’ younger brother — KJ Combs — that would give the Maroons their first lead of the night.
A three-pointer from KJ gave PC a 38-35 lead, forcing Somerset to play from behind for the first time of the night, and the Briar Jumpers did just that.
Kade Grundy — who led everybody with a game-high 28 points — tallied 24 of those points in the second half and in overtime, willing is club back to a win, on a night when PC played much better than it did in a win last weekend over Rockcastle County, but not good enough to get a win at The Briar Patch in round one between these two clubs.
“You know, when you’ve got two five-point leads in a game in the fourth quarter, you’ve got to find a way to close that game out,” lamented Pulaski County head coach John Fraley after the game.
“We just didn’t do the things we needed to do coming down the stretch to close this one out, and you’ve got to give credit to Somerset because they made some big shots,” added the Maroon head coach. “They are a very good basketball team, and we’ve just got to do some things better.”
That five-point lead coach Fraley was referring to came on a bucket from Garrett Heath, that put the Maroons up 67-62 late in the game over Somerset.
However, the Briar Jumpers would respond.
Grundy would hit a three-pointer closing the gap to 67-65, a hoop from Dylan Burton would tie the score up at 67-67, and a bucket from Jase Bruner would put the Briar Jumpers back out in front of the Maroons at 69-67.
A free throw from Heath, and a pair of charity tosses from Colton Fraley would tie things up late at 70-70, and there would be even more drama from there.
A base line jumper from Grundy with :28 left would give Somerset a 72-70 lead, but after a timeout, KJ Combs would get a basket on a strong drive to the hole, knotting things up yet again at 72-72, forcing this one into overtime.
In that extra session, Fraley gave Pulaski County the lead at 75-72 on the Maroons first possession of overtime with a three-pointer from downtown, but a jump shot from Bruner and a three-pointer from Grundy put Somerset on top for good at 77-75.
In fact, that 18 footer from straight out by Bruner — Somerset’s first points of overtime — ignited what would turn out to be a 9-0 spurt by the Briar Jumpers, giving coach Dunbar and crew the hard-fought, 88-81 win over the Maroons.
Grundy paced Somerset with his 28-point night, while Bruner added 18 points, and Dylan Burton added 16 points.
Two other Jumpers hit for double figures in the win, as Chase Walker and Kaiya Sheron each added 10 points for Somerset.
Pulaski County meanwhile was led by Colton Fraley’s 22 points, while Jake Combs added 20 points, KJ Combs notched 12 points, and Heath chipped in with 10 points.
With the win, Somerset is now in the driver’s seat for the 47th District’s number-one seed, moving to 5-0 in district play and to 10-7 overall on the season.
With the loss, Pulaski County fell to 9-6 on the season, and to 2-1 in league play.
Somerset will be off until Friday night, when the Briar Jumpers travel to Anderson County, while Pulaski County has a quick turnaround, traveling to Stanford tonight to take on Lincoln County at 7:30 p.m.