The Fern Creek Tigers certainly enjoyed their first trip to the Republic Bank/Louisville Invitational Tournament in 10 years, especially after knocking off Waggener 80-79 in overtime at Valley’s J.C. Cantrell Gym on Tuesday night.
“This is Fern Creek’s first trip to the LIT since 2004,” first-year coach James Schooler said. “We’re trying to make a resurgence in the program, so this is a huge win for us.”
Not until Waggener freshman Devon Cooper missed a driving shot along the baseline and Kevin Kirby missed an uncontested, two-hand follow shot at the horn could Schooler and the Tigers (12-4) celebrate. The victory earned them the right to play the winner of today’s 4 p.m. game between Bullitt East and Jeffersontown in a quarterfinal at 4 p.m. Friday.
Demetrius Stanton and Joe Jackson led Fern Creek with 15 points apiece, with Stanton making the Tigers’ last two baskets. The first one gave them a 78-77 lead with 1:25 to play, and the second, a fast-break layup, made it 80-77 with 1:00 to go.
Waggener’s Brandon Wells cashed in on two free throws with 53.6 seconds left to make it 80-79. Shawn Best, who scored 13 points for Fern Creek, missed a pair at the 0:24.8 mark.
“I couldn’t get my legs into my shots,” Best said. “My legs were cramping.”
That gave Waggener a chance to pull out a victory. However, Cooper — who scored 22 points — missed his shot and Kirby couldn’t convert on the rebound.
“Actually, we got the shot we wanted, and so many times when you miss a shot like that, someone will score on a rebound,” Waggener coach Bryan O’Neill said. “I bet Kirby would make that shot nine out of 10 tines. Kevin does a great job rebounding, so you can’t fault a kid for that.”
Stanton, who hit 3 of 6 threes, called the victory “real big for our school. We’ve got a new coach and we were 6-16 last season. We’re coming up and making a name for ourselves.”
Waggener, in its first LIT since 2000, trailed 57-49 early in the fourth quarter before Semja Ingram and Cooper sparked a comeback. Ingram scored 15 of his 19 points in the second half. Cooper stole the ball and hit a 3-pointer to pull the Wildcats to 71-69 with 1:20 left. Cooper sent the game into overtime at 71-all by sinking two foul shots with 0:52.9 remaining.
Jackson scored 14 points after halftime, including a three-point play that put Fern Creek up 74-73 in overtime. He also hit 7 of 9 free throws.
“Joe’s 6-6, he can shoot the ball and go to the basket,” Best said. “He’s versatile. He can play every position on the floor. He’s the heart of our team.”
The 6-2 Cooper made 8 of 16 shots, including 3 of 8 threes. Ingram, one of only three seniors on the Waggener roster, hit 6 of 13 shots. Senior Rodderick Maddox added 10 points.
But Waggener’s young players impressed Schooler.
“They’ll be hell on wheels in the future,” he said.
– Jackson 15, Stanton 15, Best 13, White 9, Moore 9, Johnson 10, Hawkins 9.Fern Creek (12-4)
– Cooper 22, Ingram 19, Maddox 10, Wells 9, Kirby 7, Hill 6, Dennison 2, Kratholm 2., Washington 2.Waggener (10-4)
– Stanton 3, Best, White, Johnson 2; Cooper 3, Ingram.3-point goals