SOMERSET – So many reasons rested on one shot.
The Lincoln County Patriots had multiple sources of motivation in their pursuit of a 12th-region championship, and they were all appeased the moment Colton Ralston’s shot slipped through the net on Tuesday night.
In that moment, the Patriots proved they were good enough, avenged a loss in the same game last year and dealt a blow to their fallen teammates by grabbing a spot in the Boys Sweet 16.
The next moment they went crazy.
A buzzer jump shot from Ralston gave Lincoln a 42-40 overtime win over Pulaski County in the 12th Region Men’s Tournament Championship, sparking a raucous celebration by the Patriots and their fans.
“This is a big win for our kids, our school and our community,” Lincoln coach Jeff Jackson said.
Lincoln won his first regional title in three years, completing a quest he couldn’t complete a year ago when he lost in the final.
“Coming so short and losing it last year hurts a lot, and winning it this year is really good,” Ralston said.
Athletes find motivation wherever they can, and Lincoln players found plenty of it on the way to the regional final in Pulaski. In fact, they wore some of it around their necks on Tuesday in the hours leading up to the game, earning the runner-up medals they received after their narrow loss to Boyle County in the 2021 title game at their own gym. .
“It was motivation every game,” Ralston said. “We have medals in our locker room that say ’12th runner up in the region’ and we wore them to school today thinking we were going to take the win tonight.”
Those medals may never be seen again, but they served a purpose for the Patriots.
“It’s something they talked about as a team, unfinished business,” Jackson said. “We didn’t take care of business on our floor last year. They were hungry, and…we talked about doing it this year. They kept that focus all year, and it ended up paying off for us.
The focus now is on the Boys Sweet 16, where Lincoln (29-7) will face No. 6 Region champion Jeffersontown (24-8) in a first-round matchup at 11 a.m. on March 16.
Lincoln avenged a 51-46 loss at Pulaski on Jan. 4, which was the fourth loss in six games for a team that had started 9-0.
“Not many people saw us here in the middle of the season,” Lincoln forward Jackson Sims said. “We had ups and downs, but we never lost faith. I felt like if we got here we would have the chance to do something special.
This was another motivator for Lincoln.
“Most of the season after being beaten by Pulaski, we were the underdogs (in the area), and that gave us more motivation,” guard Jaxon Smith said.
The Patriots were also fueled by a loss to Pulaski in the first round of the 2020 Regional, as well as the loss of teammate Evan Smith, who suffered a season-ending injury in their first-round win last week. and Evan Bishop, who played just seven games before injury cut his season short.
“We have some great kids in our program,” Jackson said. “They faced adversity and injuries. They overcame some things.
Lincoln was driven by defense, as is so often the case. The Patriots held Pulaski (30-3), who averaged more than 73 points per game, to 16 points in the final 20 minutes of play.
“I think our defense won for us,” Jaxon Smith said. “Coach Jackson, he’s known for playing slow and Pulaski is known for playing fast. We held them to 40 points…and I think we did a really good job tonight.
Pulaski was 5 of 19 overall from the field and 1 of 7 on 3 points after halftime after making 10 of 19 shots in the first half.
“I thought our defense was good. We thought we needed to play more zone, but we were able to manage and do some things. I thought we fought and fought hard,” Jackson said.
Still, the Maroons rallied from a 37-33 deficit to force overtime, tying the game on two Zach Travis free throws with 51 seconds left in regulation.
Ralston hit a 3-point shot from the left side to give Lincoln a 40-37 with 1:37 left in overtime. Each team turned the ball over once before Pulaski tied the game with 21 seconds left on a 3 from Travis, who also fouled but missed his free throw to set the stage for a thrilling finish.
Jaxon Smith dribbled the ball down the right side of the lane and approached the basket but threw the ball over the edge. No one was able to catch the rebound and the ball bounced off Ralston, who shot 15 feet as a near-full crowd held their collective breath.
“That was one hell of a high school basketball game,” Jackson said. “We tell our kids that’s why you play, to get the chance to play in that atmosphere.”
Ralston took the only two shots in overtime for Lincoln, who was 5 of 20 from the field after halftime and shot 16 of 44 and shot 36 percent overall.
He finished with 10 points, while Tramane Alcorn led the Patriots with 12.
Clayton Davis had eight rebounds, Sims had seven and Alcorn had six as Lincoln outshot Pulaski 30-25.
Both teams led by up to five points in a relatively quick first half. The pace slowed considerably in the third quarter, as each team had just one field goal and the Maroons outscored the Patriots 5-3.
Lincoln took a 33-31 lead with 5:27 left in the fourth quarter on a three-point play from Clayton Davis and never trailed again on the way to his sixth state tournament appearance and his second in the past four seasons.
Jaxon Smith is one of two Lincoln players who were on the 2019 championship team and the only one to play in the Patriots’ first-round loss to Madisonville-North Hopkins in the Sweet 16, and Sims said that Smith had tried to impress his teammates. it meant doing that.
“Jaxon really preached to us how special this was before the game and we really wanted to make it happen, and tonight we accomplished that,” Sims said.
Boys’ 12th Region Tournament
In Pulaski County
Lincoln County 11 27 30 37 42
Pulaski County 16 24 29 37 40
LINCOLN (29-7) — Tramane Alcorn 12, Jackson Sims 6, Jaxon Smith 8, Colton Ralston 10, Clayton Davis 6.
PULASKI (30-3) — Gavin Stevens 8, Cayden Lancaster 2, Zach Travis 16, Caleb Sloan 10, Barek Williams 2.
All Tournament Team
Tramane Alcorn, Lincoln County; Mason Burchett, Wayne County; William Carr, Boyle County; Trey Davis, McCreary Central; Trevor Ellis, Mercer County; Luke Imfeld, Boyle County; Cayden Lancaster, Pulaski County; Drew Marshall, West Jessamine; Colton Ralston, Lincoln County; Jake Sanders, Rockcastle County; Jackson Sims, Lincoln County; Jaxon Smith, Lincoln County; Kyle Stephens, McCreary Central; Gavin Stevens, Pulaski County; Zach Travis, Pulaski County.