Rebels reach regional title game, beat East Jessamine 57-41 to advance
By MIKE MARSEE
STANFORD — It was an off night for Boyle County, but the Rebels are still on for Saturday.
Boyle did enough things well Wednesday night in its boys’ 12th Region Tournament semifinal to move within one win of a trip to the state tournament.
The Rebels outlasted East Jessamine 57-41, and while some of the lines on the stat sheet might not have been to the Rebels’ liking, coach Dennie Webb was focused on the bottom line.
“That’s all that matters, just win and advance,” Boyle coach Dennie Webb said. “It doesn’t matter how pretty it is or how ugly it is, just so you get it done. I’m proud of the kids. They battled, competed and put it on the line.”
Boyle scored 16 of the last 20 points to pull away in the final 4 1/2 minutes and advance to Saturday’s championship game. The Rebels will face Lincoln County for the title in what will be the fourth meeting of the season between the two rivals.
“I love playing Lincoln County. It’s always a rivalry,” Boyle forward Luke Sheperson said. “We’ll bring all we’ve got Saturday.”
Webb said Boyle (20-6) did that Wednesday to earn its title shot.
“You’ve got to have games like that,” he said. “We didn’t play our best by any means. We didn’t make a 3, we didn’t shoot it well, we just grinded.
“That’s the kind of thing you have to do when your nights are off like that. You’ve got to pick up wins and … it’s got to be done with defense and rebounding. That’s what we’ve been focusing on the past week.”
Boyle’s defense held East Jessamine (15-5) to 26 percent shooting from the field. The Jaguars shot just 17 percent in the second half, going 5 for 29 overall and 1 for 9 from 3-point range.
East Jessamine went without a field goal for a stretch of 5:51 in the third and fourth quarter, then got only one more in the final 5:36.
Boyle also forced nine second-half turnovers and blocked four shots. Sheperson said those plays are what sparked the Rebels in the second half.
“Steals and blocks,” he said. “After we stole it or blocked it we ran the court, and we ran them to death. That’s what we wanted to do, and we did.”
Boyle scored twice in transition in a 7-0 run at the start of the second half that gave it a 30-24 lead. And the Rebels attacked the basket late in the game, scoring or getting to the free-throw line, where they were 8 for 10 in the closing 16-4 run and 19 for 25 overall.
Boyle didn’t dominate the boards, but the Rebels outrebounded East Jessamine 42-38 and seemed to get most of the rebounds down the stretch.
“If we’ll crash the boards on top of being able to sub a lot, we have a chance to wear people down,” Webb said. “I think the kids’ energy wore them down a little bit, and I think that was the difference in the game.
The Rebels also thrived in a physical game.
“The refs let us play, and I like that. I like that physicality,” Sheperson said.
“We prefer to have it that way,” Webb added. “We prefer to muck it up just a little bit. The kids just play hard, and if we come out and play hard and compete and battle, good things will happen.”
Sheperson led Boyle with 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting, and he punctuated the win with a one-handed dunk in the closing seconds. He also had six rebounds and all four of the Rebels’ blocked shots.
Webb scored 13 points, Luke Imfeld had 12 points and Owen Barnes grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds for Boyle.
The Rebels shot 40 percent from the field but missed all 10 of their 3-point attempts.
“We had a chance to make runs, and it just wouldn’t happen,” Webb said. “We just missed some shots. But we made some late.”
Boyle scored seven of the first nine points and led 18-11 in the second quarter, but the Rebels got only one basket in the final 5:17 of the first half while the Jaguars outscored them 12-5 to take a 24-23 halftime lead.
Ben McNew scored 12 points and Collin McElfresh added 10 for East Jessamine.
“We won a game tonight that wasn’t our best game by any means, and that is prob as good a team as we played all year in my opinion,” Webb said.
Boyle now faces a familiar foe in Lincoln (16-6), which defeated the Rebels 62-57 in last week’s 45th District final at Boyle. The Rebels took both regular-season meetings with the Patriots, winning 59-49 on the road and 68-52 at home.
“I don’t think there’s any great secrets (as to) what they’re going to do and what we’re going to do,” Webb said. “There might be a few wrinkles here and there, but it’s just going to come down to execution and who’s going to do what they do better than the other team and have just a little bit left in the tank at the end.”
This will be the fourth time Boyle and Lincoln have gone head to head in the regional final. The Patriots won in the 1980 and 2007 title games, while the Rebels won the 2015 final.
Boyle has won four regional titles in 57 seasons; Lincoln has five championships in 46 seasons.
Attendance has been limited for the regional under COVID-19 protocols. The 500 tickets available for each regional semifinal sold out after all four first-round games failed to do so, and ticket allotments have been increased for Saturday’s game.
Each school has been allotted 325 e-tickets for the 7 p.m. game. Gates will open at 6 p.m.
Boys 12th Region Tournament
At Lincoln County
Boyle County 13 – 23 – 35 – 57
East Jessamine 10 – 24 – 32 – 41
BOYLE (20-4) — Luke Sheperson 16, Luke Imfeld 12, Hagan Webb 13, Owen Barnes 8, Jagger Gillis 4, Jakei Tarter 4.
EAST JESSAMINE (15-5) — Ben McNew 12, Zion Thomas 7, Cam Thompson 6, Caleb Smith 4, Collin McElfresh 10, Will Hatter 2.