NICHOLASVILLE — One of the best-kept secrets in Kentucky high school basketball is the loud and lively rivalry between East Jessamine and West Jessamine.
When East meets West, as they did Friday night, you can bet the gym will be packed, the students will be raucous, and the play will be intense.
West beat host East 70-62 in this latest cross-county battle to claim the regular-season 46th District title and earn the No. 1 seed in the postseason tournament.
Of course, after the final buzzer sounded, West's students swarmed the court in celebration of the Colts' first regular-season sweep of the Jaguars in five years.
"This rivalry is probably not well known statewide, but I'd say it compares favorably to any rivalry in the state," West Coach Damon Kelley said. "Every time we play it's a packed house, the student sections are really into it, and the whole community comes out. I wish both gyms were a little bigger, but that's also what makes it so intense."
Chris O'Bryan, who's been part of the rivalry since it began 18 years ago, the last 15 as East's head coach, agreed.
"It doesn't matter what anyone's record is, it's a big game with a big atmosphere, and the whole community gets together to enjoy it. It's a great environment and a lot of fun."
West enjoyed itself more this time around, led by solid play from 6-foot senior David McCorvey (21 points, five rebounds), 6-4 senior Brooks Ely (18 points, 10 rebounds) and 6-3 junior Siah Holifield (17 points, four rebounds).
Ely opened the game in style, getting a steal and breakaway dunk.
East edged ahead after that, but West used a 14-1 run to take the lead for good. The Colts were up 53-42 late in the third quarter, but East ran off 11 consecutive points to tie it.
"The third quarter was awesome," O'Bryan said. "But it didn't quite carry over."
West steadied itself and pulled away again, thanks in part to 9-for-13 foul shooting in the last six minutes.
"We stayed positive the whole game, even when they made their run," Ely said.
"We're a team and play as a team. All five of us out there at a time always play together."
Hayden Smith, a 6-1 senior, led East with 26 points. Rashawn Jackson, who transferred from West to East for his senior year, had 21 points and seven rebounds.
Kelley said Smith and Jackson are "tough to guard, but our mind-set both times we've played this year was to make them earn their points. We know they're going to score, but we don't want to gamble and give other guys easy baskets."
As for his own team, Kelley likes the consistent scoring that McCorvey, Ely and Holifield provide. But he also praised Dalton Crouse for "setting a tone with his defense, rebounding and hustle." And Kelley said the biggest change in the Colts from the start of the year is Camron Seater's development as a point guard.
Crouse had eight points and five boards against East. Seater had three points, five assists and two steals.
McCorvey noted that when West got thumped by district rival Mercer County in mid-December, "nobody thought we'd be regular-season district champs."
West now leads the rivalry with East 30-18.
West Jessamine (18-7) -- Ely 18, Holifield 17, McCorvey 21, Seater 3, Crouse 8, Okesson 3.
East Jessamine (8-17) -- Smith 26, Jackson 21, Ross 4, Harper 3, Maddon 8.
West Jessamine 18 19 16 17 — 70
East Jessamine 20 8 23 11 — 62