STANFORD — Basketball fans in either Jessamine County or McCreary County are going to have reason to celebrate a sweet victory Tuesday night.
Who will it be?
That depends on who wins the 12th Region championship showdown between West Jessamine (25-8) and McCreary Central (21-11).
West Jessamine earned a shot at its first region title by beating Wayne County 62-49 in Monday night's first semifinal. Jarrod Polson's 38 points, including 19-for-19 free-throw shooting, led the Colts.
McCreary Central, which hasn't been to the Sweet Sixteen since 1983, held on to beat host Lincoln County 47-44 in the thrilling nightcap.
Aaron Watts hit a pair of free throws with 12 seconds left for the Raiders, who escaped when Lincoln County missed a three at the buzzer.
"It's been a long time coming," McCreary Central Coach Robert Jones said, noting this is only the second time since '83 that the school has been in the region finals.
West Jessamine Coach Robert Hammonds has his Colts in the region title game for the second year in a row.
"This is what we've been working for," he said. "We're a blue-collar team. Our motto is, 'Go to work.'"
Now they have a chance to go to Rupp Arena, something no school in the county has done since Jessamine County went in 1990 (seven years before the school split into East and West).
West Jessamine 62, Wayne County 49: After scoring 38 points in a first-round win over Danville, Polson matched that total in the semifinals.
The 5-foot-10 junior guard was at his best in the fourth quarter when Wayne County was still threatening. Polson was 10-for-10 from the foul line in the last 5:25. He also finished the night with seven rebounds and three assists.
"Jarrod has learned since Christmas to be a coach on the floor," Hammonds said. "Everybody trusts him to know the flow of the game and to know when he needs the ball in his hands. That's what you want in a point guard."
Rodney Woods' Cardinals rallied from a 12-point halftime deficit and and cut the deficit to two in the third quarter.
"Any time you play Coach Woods, one of the best there ever was, you know he's going to make adjustments," Hammonds said. "They kept us off balance in the third quarter."
Gavin Dunagan, one of four sophomore starters for Wayne County. had 17 points. Austin Shearer had 10.
McCreary Central 47, Lincoln County 44: This was as much a chess match as it was a basketball game.
After Lincoln County trimmed a five-point deficit to 41-38 midway through the fourth quarter, McCreary Central spread the floor.
McCreary Central ran more than two minutes off the clock before making a turnover.
Colby Long then hit a tying three for Lincoln County with 1:55 left.
The Raiders answered with a layup by Zack Roark and two free throws by Ben Wright to make it 45-41.
The Patriots countered with a three by Trevor Edgington, his fifth of the night, to pull to within 45-44.
But Watts, who finished with 21 points, was cool under pressure and hit his two free pressure-packed free throws.
"You want your player who's supposed to make plays up there," Jones said. "That's what a leader is supposed to do."
Lincoln County, which had won the region the last two years, was led by Edgington's 15 points and Skyler Gilbert's nine. All of their points came on three-pointers.
west jessamine 62, wayne Co. 49
WAYNE COUNTY (17-15) — Dunagan 17, Shearer 10, Bell 3, K. Hopper 6, R. Hopper 2, Cravens 5, Guinn 6.
WEST JESSAMINE (25-9) — Polson 38, Zemann 8, Rehner 4, Mefford 2, Bartholomew 2, Pohl 4, Elliott 2, Troyer 2.
Wayne County 13 8 18 10—49
West Jessamine 21 12 14 15—62
mccreary central 47, Lincoln Co. 44
LINCOLN COUNTY (20-10) — Spurlin 7, Edgington 15, Gilbert 9, Allison 4, Hill 2, Long 7.
MCCREARY CENTRAL (21-11) — Watts 21, Schrock 8, Roark 13, Wright 2, Dixon 3.
Lincoln County 14 11 10 9—44
McCreary Central 12 18 18 9—47