Joe Jackson scored 23 points and Shawn Best added 22 as Fern Creek overcame a 15-point second-quarter deficit to beat host Jeffersontown 77-74 in a 24th District boys’ basketball semifinal Wednesday night.
Jackson, a senior forward, hit two free throws with 34.2 seconds left to give the Tigers (19-10) a 75-72 lead, but he missed two more 16 seconds later and fouled out with 11.8 seconds left. Brandon Marshall cut the Tigers’ lead back to one with those free throws, and the Chargers (14-14) had a chance to win after Best missed a pair.
But Brandon Johnson was whistled for traveling with 3.8 seconds left — just before he sank a baseline jumper — and the Chargers could not foul Marti White before he made a layup at the buzzer to end J’town’s season.
The final seconds, much like the entire game, were played at a frenetic, back-and-forth pace. So much so that Fern Creek coach James Schooler didn’t even see the decisive play.
“I was caught up in the motion of the game,” he said. “When I saw the official signal traveling, I said, ‘God bless.’ “
Marshall led the Chargers with 24 points, 19 in the first half. His 3-pointer with five minutes left in the half capped a 12-0 run and widened the Chargers’ lead to 34-19. They scored eight points off three Fern Creek turnovers during that span, prompting Schooler to call a timeout.
“I just told my team to just keep fighting,” he said. “We’ve been in 30-somewhat games (actually 29). I told them those were practice games to prepare us for the tournament. Everybody’s fighting for their lives now.”
His Tigers responded, whittling the deficit to just a point by halftime. And when Best hit a running layup 45 seconds into the third quarter, Fern Creek had its first lead.
Neither team led by more than four points in the second half.
“I knew it would be a battle,” Chargers coach Clay Moody said. “We made a run, they made a run, and then it came down to a couple plays at the end. They made the shots and we didn’t.”
With the victory, the Tigers get a chance for their first district title since 2003 when they play Bullitt East on Friday. The two teams, who automatically advance to next week’s Sixth Region Tournament, split two games this season, both decided by three points or fewer.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Jackson said. “We really want to get it for our community and our school.”
Tyler Sharpe hit five 3-point shots in a 22-point performance that led the Chargers (23-7) to an easy win over the Wildcats (10-16).* Bullitt East 82, Whitefield 47:
It was Bullitt East’s second victory in four games since forward Ezra Troutman fractured his pelvis. Coach Bob Blackburn said Troutman will miss at least next week’s regional.
Five Chargers scored in double figures, including Tyler Bacon and Brandon Klefot with 14 points each. Klefot, a sophomore forward who started all season, nearly tripled his season average.
Andrew Patterson and Kyle Jackson each scored 12 points for Whitefield.