High School Basketball

West Jessamine overtakes Hazard 51-40

West Jessamine's Randy Troyer could have been overlooked in the box score after the Colts knocked off Hazard 51-40 in the opening game of the National City Boys' Sweet Sixteen in Rupp Arena on Wednesday afternoon.

Troyer didn't score, didn't even attempt a field goal or a free throw. He had one rebound and one assist in 15 minutes of action.

But to his coach and teammates, the 5-foot-10 senior reserve was the MVP of West Jessamine's come-from-behind upset because of his second-half defense on Hazard point guard Josh Whitaker.

"It all started with this man and the way he guarded Whitaker," West Jessamine star Jarrod Polson said, sitting next to Troyer in the post-game interview.

Colts Coach Robert Hammonds seconded that opinion.

"Randy Troyer took it upon himself to guard Whitaker. Everything goes through him for their offense, and he's a great point guard and is so fast," Hammonds said.

"But I thought Randy was just as quick. He stayed in front of him, and took him out of their offense. He did a super, super job."

The results couldn't have been better for West Jessamine, or worse for Hazard.

After Robert Warren's layup put the Bulldogs ahead 39-28 with 4:56 left in the third quarter, everything changed.

Amazingly, Hazard managed only one point the rest of the game.

While the 14th Region champs suffered through a 10-minute scoring drought, West Jessamine tallied 17 points to take a 45-39 lead.

The Colts got offensive contributions from a bunch of guys during the surge, including Polson, Jonathan Rehner, David Elliott, Kyle Mefford and Nick Ziemann.

The brunt of the defensive load was carried by Troyer.

Whitaker had 14 points in the first half when Troyer played only 93 seconds.

Whitaker added a three-pointer early in the third quarter, but he had only a free throw the rest of the way.

Troyer said Whitaker was a "handful," and there were times when Troyer wanted to go to the bench to catch his breath in the second half.

"But I had to stay in there for the team," he said.

Whitaker wasn't the only Bulldog who lost his bite. Hazard missed its last 20 field-goal attempts and six of its last seven free throws.

"It seemed like there was a lid on the basket," Coach Al Holland said. "When we kept missing our shots, and couldn't make a free throw, we lost our confidence."

Hazard came into the game figuring it had an advantage inside, with 6-foot-5 Justin Jones and Warren at 6-3. But both of them got in foul trouble in the second half, limiting their effectiveness on both ends of the court.

"Their foul trouble was huge," Hammonds said, "because then our size wasn't as much of an Achilles' heel."

The 12th Region champs wound up winning the boards decisively, 34-20, as they rolled to their 10th consecutive victory.

Polson, a 6-foot junior, led the Colts with 14 points, seven rebounds and six assists.

Rehner had 10 points, and Kyle Mefford hit three three-pointers for nine points to help West Jessamine earn a victory on its first trip to the state tournament in the school's 12-year history.

Hazard, which made the Sweet Sixteen for the third time in four years, was led by Whitaker's 18 points. Jones and Warren combined for 10 points and seven rebounds before they fouled out.

Hammonds said the Colts knew Hazard's strengths and weaknesses from a detailed scouting report, but it took a terrific effort from his players to execute the game plan.

"They played with a lot of intensity, and I'm proud of them," he said.

Cold shooting in the post-season wasn't new for the Bulldogs. Holland said they missed 17 of their first 19 shots in a loss to Perry County Central in the district finals.

But Hazard got a second chance against PCC in the region finals.

There are no second chances in the Sweet Sixteen.