Jan. 26—It's always great to see a gymnasium packed for a high school basketball game and double that when it is a crosstown rivalry contest. Folks jam-packed inside the Briar Patch on Friday night were in for a doozy as well, as the Pulaski County Maroons and Somerset Briar Jumpers squared off for the second time this season. A perfect 6-0 record in district play was the prize awaiting the Jumpers, but this time they had to contend with Carson Fraley, who was sorely missed the last time these two got together.
What a game. That's really all that can be said for this instant classic. Pulaski was comfortably ahead at halftime before a massive Somerset run gave them the lead and all the momentum heading into the final period. However, the Maroons, sans Fraley who went down due to injury in the second quarter, found themselves and sent the Pulaski portion of the crowd into a frenzy courtesy of their 63-56 victory.
The teams couldn't miss early on, as they traded plenty of made baskets. It was a duel early on between Zak Anderson and Ben Godby, with Anderson's five early points to Godby's four giving Pulaski the edge in the first few minutes. It truly seemed like as soon as one team was getting the slightest edge, the other would come down and reenergize their crowd. Anderson was active on the offensive glass through the first quarter, with Fraley also getting in on the scoring action. Godby couldn't be stopped either in the period, scoring eight total points as it looked like Pulaski would head into the second up just two points. However, a made three-pointer from Jalen Wooldridge gave the Maroons a 17-12 lead after one period of action.
Back-to-back buckets from Godby and Indred Whitaker got the Jumpers within one to open up the second quarter. Three-point baskets from both Fraley and Gavin Cook immediately got the Pulaski lead back out to 23-16. Momentum went back to the Maroons after some great play from Ethan Idlewine, who, after a massive block of Whitaker on the defensive end, scored four straight points to make the score 27-18, including a behind-the-back assist from Fraley.
Unfortunately for the Maroons, Fraley soon went to the court and had to be assisted back to his feet, with a potential injury forcing him out of the remainder of the contest. Pulaski used this as fuel though and ended the half on a 9-4 run to take a 36-22 lead into the break as the Maroon faithful were loving what they were seeing on the court. Will Blankenship stepped up with seven of those nine points as he began attacking the lane at will. The lone Somerset points were scored by Josh Lewis and Jakob Bartley.
Everything was going Pulaski's way as they entered the second half of play and after another basket from Idlewine, their lead was strong at 38-22. Whitaker began chipping at their lead with six points as he began to find his shooting form after poor shooting in the first half, although three-pointers drained by Anderson and Blankenship were keeping the Jumpers at bay as the visitors' lead sat at 46-32 midway through the period.
Here came the Jumpers however. A shot from deep by Whitaker started what was an absolute offensive onslaught by the home team. Godby stole the ball and got two, so did Kole Grundy and Whitaker soon hit another from deep as the team began catching fire. Free throws from Godby got Somerset within two before a three by Aedyn Absher gave the Briar Jumpers their first lead of the evening heading into the fourth quarter at 47-46 after a 15-0 run to close the period.
The Briar Jumper Rowdies, and Briar Jumper Nation as a whole, were on their feet heading into the final period, and with good reason. Another Godby make up close gave Somerset a three-point advantage before a basket from Blankenship finally broke the 17-0 extended run by the Jumpers. Back-to-back threes from Cook and Blankenship shifted the lead back to Pulaski as they were suddenly on top 53-49. It wasn't long before Whitaker and Absher both connected from deep and the game was tied at 55-55 heading into the final few minutes.
The standing-room only crowd was absolutely insane on both sides, with neither team giving an inch. A made shot at the line by Godby gave Somerset the lead back by one before Idlewine hit a shot from up close to flip the lead back to Pulaski. Godby made a big time block to prevent the lead from growing before Blankenship made it to the line to hit both free throws, giving the Maroons a 59-56 lead. Pulaski's defense was the key to the victory late, allowing no points after the Godby free throw. Four points from Wooldridge iced the win for Pulaski soon after, giving the Maroons the revenge victory at the Briar Patch and tying them for first in the district standings with their 63-56 win.
The Maroons were led in scoring by 21 from Blankenship, as well as 10 apiece from Anderson and Idlewine. Wooldridge added nine, while Fraley had seven and Cook scored six.
The Jumpers were led by a game-high 23 points from Godby, as well as 17 from Whitaker and 10 from Absher. Other scorers included the trio of Lewis, Bartley and Grundy with two points apiece.
Pulaski improves to 15-5 with the win and will be back in action for a tough contest against the Henry Clay Blue Devils (17-2) on Saturday in the Rocket Classic at Rockcastle County. Game time is scheduled for 3:15 p.m.
Somerset falls to 14-5 and will be back on the road on Tuesday to take on the McCreary Central Raiders. That game is scheduled to tip at 7:30 p.m.
Jacob Pratt is the Sports Editor of the Commonwealth Journal and can be reached at email@example.com.