The Experience

Woodford County’s 1st Round win at Rupp Arena

The biggest stage in Kentucky High School Basketball, the UK Heathcare KHSAA Boys Sweet 16. If you’re from Kentucky then you know the Sweet 16 is something special. Played at historic Rupp Arena where so many greats have shown their skills off in front of thousands of fans. As a former high school basketball player and Kentucky fan myself, it doesn’t get much better than this. Kentucky is one of the few states left in America that don’t have classes in Basketball, meaning anyone can win their region and play on the grand stage. Unlike other sports where classes are put in place based on school size. I’m not diminishing those at all but this gives every school a chance to take the title of State Champion if they battle it out. You can just feel the passion when taking in a game in this setting. Many of these kids are there for the first time and have all dreamed of getting to play on this court.

Coming off both a District and Region title, Woodford was ready for the challenge at hand. This game was a battle from the tip with a total of 13 ties and 15 lead changes throughout the contest.

Stark (Woodford) and McDaniels (Jeffersontown) reach for the tipoff

At the end of the 1st Quarter, Woodford trailed Jeffersontown 14-18 but outscored Jeffersontown 17-12 in the 2nd to take a 31-30 lead at the half. The 3rd ended with Jeffersontown outscoring Woodford 15-13 making the score 45-44, JTown. In the 4th Quarter Woodford outscored JTown 8-4 but Camron McDaniels of JTown hit a clutch 3 with .23 seconds to go to tie the game at 52…overtime was needed to decide who would advance.

Jasper Johnson (WC) takes a jumpshot in the 3rd Quarter

In OT with 2:16 left to play, Jasper Johnson hit a huge 3 to put the Jackets up 55-52. Needless to say the Woodford sideline and crowd went crazy. Camron McDaniels hit another clutch 3 pointer with 1:49 to go to tie the game 55-55. After a hard foul on Lukas McDaniels, Layton Stark had to leave the game momentarily. Jaunte Jenkins subbed in to take his FTs, hiting 1 of 2, making the score 56-55. On the next JTown posession, Jay Hackley-Marks missed a 3 and Makhi Smith grabbed a huge defensive rebound. Jasper Johnson hit 2 big FTs on the ensuing posession after he was fouled to put the Jackets up 58-55 with .54 seconds to go. After a Jay Hackley-Marks layup at the .35 second mark, JTown was within 1 point, 57-58. Santonio Wade hit 1-2 FTs with .22 seconds to go. Aden Nelson was fouled and hit 1-2 FTs with .5 seconds left in the game, making the score 60-57 Woodford. Brandon Gatewood raced down the floor and attempted a 3 pointer, which missed the mark. Jackets won 60-57!

Shout out to Makhi Smith, Jasper Johnson, and Aden Nelson who were on the floor all 36 minutes of the game. Santonio Wade was close with 33 minutes played. Like I said, this wasn’t a walk in the park. If you were there you know what a bruiser of a game this was. Both teams left it all out on the court.

Official stats from the game

WC Fan excitement after the game

The fan support was plain awesome. It seemed like the whole town of Versailles was there in support of these boys, as it should have been. I covered all 15 games of the state tournement last year for a media outlet and it was one of the most memorable experiences of my photography career. However, experiencing this game was truly an honor. Having essentially a whole arena with people you know or who know you is just on another level. From the pre-game, to the opening tip and the final buzzer…it was fantastic. I also got to shoot next to my good buddy Bill Caine who is an awesome photographer and sports writer for the Woodford Sun. We are typically on a sideline somewhere in Woodford County shooting and talk often. While those moments are not as grand as Rupp, the importance of capturing those moments is great for those athletes and their families. He’s a wonderful photographer, writer and has a passion for covering sports to support the athletes in Woodford County. He works his tail off covering any and everything sports related. I really don’t know how he does it. Woodford County is extremely lucky to have a person of his caliber.

In conclusion, it’s on to Friday as Woodford takes the court against Elizabethtown at 11am. Come out and cheer on your Woodford County Yellow Jackets as they continue their post season run!

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