Southwest outlasted Diamond, 56-51, in a tense district semifinal at Mt. Vernon on Friday night. The win avenged the 61-46 drubbing the Trojans suffered at the hands of the Wildcats in the first round of last year's district tournament and propelled Southwest into the district championship game against Mt. Vernon.
Southwest won with a combination of timely outside shooting and the heady play of senior Tyler Ferguson. Diamond, the taller and more physical team, looked to have the advantage throughout the first three quarters, but every time Southwest seemed to be on the ropes, a big play put the Trojans back on track.
Southwest hit seven three-pointers in the first half, gaining the lead at the end of the first two quarters on critical bombs.
Diamond's Kyle Heman led all scorers with 20 points. Southwest's inside-outside combo of Ferguson and Skylar Knoll scored 17 and 12 points respectively for the Trojans.
Diamond flew to a 9-4 lead in the early going as Southwest struggled with turnovers. Following a strategy timeout by Jason Horn, the Trojans immediately tied the game with a corner trey from Travis Hayworth and a follow shot by Ferguson.
Kyle Heman scored four straight points to give Diamond a 15-14 lead late in the quarter, but Josh Cutberth gave Southwest the lead at the first break, swishing a trey from the corner to give the Trojans a 17-15 advantage.
The pace continued in the second frame, with the teams trading the lead. Southwest drained four more treys in the second period, the last coming off the hands of James Pettit. Pettit's rainbow from 25 feet beat the buzzer and gave the Trojans a 33-31 lead at halftime.
The Wildcats moved in front again in the third period, claiming a 40-37 lead on Jared Huffman's free throws at the 5:05 mark. Hayworth faked Diamond's Scott Corn into the air and whistled a trey through the cords while drawing the foul. The Southwest point guard nailed the free throw to complete the four-point play, giving Southwest a 41-40 lead.
Heman scored with an offensive rebound to give Diamond its last lead at 42-41. Ferguson scored two baskets in succession, and then Knoll scored the last two baskets of the period as the Trojans grabbed a 49-45 lead at the final break.
With Horn directing traffic from the sideline, the Trojans milked the clock throughout the fourth quarter. Southwest's shaky free-throw shooting gave Diamond a glimmer of hope, with the Wildcats creeping within 52-51 on a Logan Myers bank shot with 2:36 to play.
But Ferguson had one more bit of magic left, flipping a no-look pass to Jeff Elkins in the lane for an easy layup and a 54-51 Southwest lead with 1:19 to go. Hayworth's free throws in the final minute created the final score of 56-51.
Southwest scorers: Tyler Ferguson, 17; Skylar Knoll, 12; Travis Hayworth and Jeff Elkins, 9 each; and Josh Cutberth, Jordan Epling and James Pettit, 3 apiece.
Diamond scorers: Kyle Heman, 20; Jared Huffman, 15; Logan Myers, 6; Ryan Jinks, 5; Chance Hardy, 3; and Trent Hayes, 2.