Lincoln tops West Jessamine to reach regional finals; Will play for title at home Saturday night

By MIKE MARSEE
Contributing Writer

STANFORD — The Lincoln County boys did exactly what they had to do to get to exactly where they want to be.

The Patriots made the right plays at the right times Tuesday night to give themselves an opportunity to play for the regional championship on their home court.

They made things hard on themselves at both the start and end of the game, but they overcame an early deficit and held on down the stretch to defeat Pulaski County 52-47 in a boys 12th Region Tournament semifinal.

It was another of what Lincoln coach Jeff Jackson calls “grinder games,” not that he expected anything else.

“We did the things we had to do to win,” Jackson said. “All the games this time of year are close.”

Lincoln (16-6) advanced to the championship game at 7 p.m. Saturday at J.C. Eddleman Gymnasium. The Patriots will play the winner of Wednesday’s semifinal between East Jessamine and Boyle County.

They earned their spot in the final with sound defense and timely rebounding, particularly in the closing seconds.

Lincoln led 50-44 after two free throws by Tramane Alcorn with 53 seconds remaining. Pulaski (14-7) promptly closed the gap with a three-point play by Barke Williams, then fouled Alcorn at :37.

Alcorn made only one of two shots to make it 51-47, and the Maroons took their time trying to find a shot on the other end. Jaxon Smith rebounded a missed 3 on the other end and drew a foul at :15, and he also hit one of two free throws.

Pulaski didn’t get off a shot until about six seconds remained, and Smith rebounded the missed 3 once again to secure the Patriots’ win.

“We got stops when we had to, and we got a little physical in there on the glass and did a good job getting rebounds and taking care of it, and we hit enough free throws to get (the margin) to three and four,” Jackson said. “I’m just real proud of our kids for the effort that they gave tonight.”

Smith had Lincoln’s last four rebounds, and he finished with 14 points and six boards to lead Lincoln in both categories.

“He made some hustle plays and got some big rebounds, and he and Tramane hit enough free throws down the stretch to take care of things,” Jackson said.

Lincoln’s zone defense held Pulaski to 40 percent shooting overall from the field and 22 percent from 3-point range — 23 of their 48 attempts came from behind the line — both well below their season averages. The Maroons were 3 for 13 from 3-point range and 6 for 18 overall in the fourth quarter.

Jackson said the Patriots did a good job for the most part of contesting Pulaski’s shooters, and they shot the ball well on the other end against the Maroons’ man-to-man.

Lincoln was 6 for 12 from 3-point range in the first half and 8 for 18 overall, and it finished 17 for 32 (53 percent) from the field. The Patriots also made five of eight free throws in the final 2:05 and were 10 for 15 overall.

Pulaski pressured point guard Jaxon Smith, but he got plenty of ball-handling help from Alcorn and Colton Ralston, and Lincoln turned the ball over only four times.

“They’re so good defensively and they’re so physical, and they did a really good job keeping the ball out of Jaxon’s hands. Colton and Tramane helped get it down the floor as they always do,” Jackson said.

Pulaski led 11-5 before Lincoln began working its way back. The Patriots took a 16-15 lead late in the first quarter and went in front to stay when Baylor Mattingly hit a 3-pointer to give them a 21-18 lead with 4:45 left in the first half.

They took their largest lead at 32-18 after scoring the last nine points of the first half and the first five points of the second, and they led 46-37 after another Mattingly 3 with 3:57 to play.

Alcorn scored 10 points and Mattingly had nine for Lincoln.

K.J. Combs and Cayden Lancaster led Pulaski with 11 points each.

Lincoln will make its ninth appearance in the regional finals and will play for its sixth regional title Saturday.

The Patriots will play for the title on their home floor for the fourth time since Lincoln began hosting the regional on a biennial basis in 2005.

They have won two of the previous three games, in 2007 over Boyle and in 2019 over Danville, and they lost the 2015 final at home to Boyle.

“It’s good to play in our own building,” Jackson said. “It’ll be a great challenge with which whichever team we play, because they’re both really, really good.”

Boys 12th Region Tournament
At Lincoln County
Semifinal
West Jessamine 15 – 18 – 34 – 47
Lincoln County 16 – 27 – 39 – 62
PULASKI (14-7) — Barek Williams 9, Cayden Lancaster 11, Zach Travis 9, K.J. Combs 11, Caleb Sloan 7.
LINCOLN (16-6) — Brady Weaver 4, Tramane Alcorn 10, Jaxon Smith 14, Baylor Mattingly 9, Colton Ralston 7.