Nothing like a triple-overtime victory on Senior Night to put a bounce in the step of a basketball team.
"It was awesome and exciting, a great way to win," Paul Laurence Dunbar senior Clay Coyle said after his free throws helped clinch a 48-40 triple-OT victory over West Jessamine Thursday night.
Dunbar badly needed a boost. It had lost 12 of its past 14 games and was looking for something positive before heading into the 43rd District tournament Monday night.
"This has to help our confidence," Coach Justin Yeary said. "This was a grind-it-out game, and that's what you'll see in post-season more than up-and-down 85-80 games.
"I was proud of the way we were able to execute, especially in the overtimes, and the way we hit our free throws. That's huge for us."
Dunbar was 12-for-12 from the foul line in the extra periods, including 10-for-10 in the third OT.
William Gary, a sophomore, led Dunbar with 15 points and Coyle had 13. Lamont Johnson had six points and 14 rebounds. Sean Lamanna added eight points and nine rebounds.
Gary hit four free throws to give the Bulldogs a 42-38 edge early in the third OT. After Sean Donaldson hit a layup for West Jessamine, Coyle drilled four straight from the line, and Gary closed it out with two more.
For two-time defending 12th Region champion West Jessamine, it was another tough night on the road. After freshman Will Henderson hit a three-pointer to open the game, only three Colts scored the rest of the way.
Dylan Pohl had 14 points, Bradley Strait 12 and Donaldson 11.
Dunbar's zone kept West Jessamine from getting the ball to its big guys. The Colts couldn't hit from the outside to open things up inside. They were only 2-for-15 from three-point range.
"They did a good job packing it in on us," West Jessamine Coach Damon Kelley said. "They really got us out of our rhythm offensively."
Neither team shot well in a slow-paced game that begged for offense. West Jessamine led 16-15 at halftime; it was tied at 34 at the end of regulation, and the second overtime was scoreless.
"The first four quarters set basketball back 20 years," Yeary said with a laugh.
Dunbar found a way to win despite shooting 29 percent (15-for-52), and missing 15 of its 16 three-point tries. But the Bulldogs' defense limited West Jessamine to 31 percent shooting (15-for-48) and forced 18 turnovers, eight in the extra periods.
"Wins are wins, and we'll take them in triple overtime or any way we can get 'em," Yeary said.
Dunbar will face host Lafayette in Monday's district opener.
West Jessamine will be at home against Mercer County in the 46th District Tuesday night. Mercer County has beaten the Colts twice this season, but it needed an OT to do it last month. West Jessamine can take confidence from that game, and also its 63-49 win over Pulaski County last week.
"Mercer County is as good as anybody in our region," Kelley said. "But anything can happen in a do-or-die situation."
WEST JESSAMINE (11-17) — Pohl 5-15 3-3 14, Donaldson 5-9 1-2 11, Strait 4-10 4-6 12, Martin 0-3 0-0 0, Henderson 1-5 0-0 3, Watts 0-3 0-0 0, Hager 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 15-48 8-11 40.
PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR (10-18) — Coyle 4-17 5-6 13, Gary 4-16 7-8 15, Johnson 3-5 0-0 6, Lamanna 2-8 4-4 8, Peasah 1-2 0-0 2, Herrin 1-3 1-2 4, Boaz 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 15-52 17-20 48.
West Jessamine 10 6 9 9 4 0 2—40
Paul Dunbar 4 11 7 12 4 0 10—48