For the eighth straight year, the Lady Cougars are 12th District Champions following their 54-40 win over Edmonson County in the district final, played at Whitesville Trinity Thursday evening.
The win put the finishing touches on an incredibly overacheiving year for the Lady Cougars after a 2-5 start to the season, including a loss at Butler County, their first district loss since 2004.
The Lady Cougars are now 19-12 on the year and will head into next week’s 3rd Region Tournament, in Owensboro, where they will face a runner-up team from the 9th, 10th, or 11th districts.
The Lady Cougars put four players onto the 12th District All-Tournament Team, sophomore Maddie Stewart, junior Kaylan Shull, freshman Sarah Pierce and eighth-grader Grace White. Stewart was also was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
After trailing by as many as six points in the early stages of the game, the Lady Cougars got a pair of three-pointers from Shull and another from Pierce at the 3:52 mark which put the Lady Cougars in front 9-8, a lead they would never give back.
Stewart’s three-point play at 2:46 gave the Lady Cougars a four-point lead, 14-10, but Edmonson’s Paige Carnes hit a three-pointer with 2:14 left to pull her team to within a point.
With under a minute to go, the Lady Cougars got a great hustle play from reserve center, Jessica Johnson, who grabbed a rebound following a Lady Cougar miss, got knocked to the floor, and as she was going down, rolled the ball along the floor to a wide-open Pierce under the basket, who put it in to give Grayson County a 16-13 lead at the start of the second period.
When Stewart grabbed a steal and drove in for a lay-up at the 5:31 mark of the second quarter, the Lady Cougars led by six points, 21-15. Later, Shull hit a pair of bonus free throws at the 3:03 mark which put them in front by seven, 26-19, their largest lead of the first half.
Hannah Ruth Clemmons hit two free throws with 1:10 left in the first half which pulled the Lady Cats to within five, 28-23. Madison Rich went to the line in the double bonus with 52.8 seconds left with the chance to close the gap to three points, but missed both shots and the half ended with the Lady Cougars up by five.
Cassidy Swift opened the third period with a three-pointer before Rich hit two free throws. White followed with another three at the 7:03 mark and the Lady Cougars held their largest lead to that point, nine points at 34-25.
Grayson County had four opportunities afterward to expand their lead, but could not get a shot to fall. Neither team scored over the next two minutes, but the Lady Cats’ Caitlin Simon ended the scoring drought with a lay-up at the 5:05 mark to make it 34-27.
Swift hit 1-of-2 at the line with 2:36 left in the period to give the Lady Cougars a 10-point lead, 37-27, but the Lady Cats responded with five straight to make it a five-point game, 37-32 with 1:42 left.
Pierce hit 1-of-2 at the line at the 1:25 mark, then scored on a put-back basket with eight seconds left to give the Lady Cougars an eight-point advantage, 40-32 heading into the fourth quarter.
Rich scored opening the final period to cut the lead back to six, 40-34, but White scored on a lay-up at 7:25, then followed that with a three-pointer at 7:02. When Stewart scored on a length-of-the-floor drive with 5:57 remaining, Grayson County had scored seven straight and led by 13 points, 47-34, and the crowd began to sense the end was near.
Simon scored with 4:41 left to cut the Lady Cat deficit to 11 points, 49-38, but Pierce hit her second three of the night at the 3:05 mark to put Grayson County in front by 14 points, 52-38, and the Lady Cougars fans started cheering in earnest, anticipating victory.
Pierce hit two bonus free throws with 1:12 remaining to give the Lady Cougars their largest lead of the night, 15 points at 54-39. Carnes hit 1-of-2 at the line to close out the scoring with 48 seconds left. The Lady Cougars then held the ball for the remaining time to ice their win.
Rich led the Lady Cats with 12 points, while Clemmons had 11.
Stewart led all scorers with 17 points and she also led the team with seven rebounds. Pierce had one of her best games as a varsity players, scoring 15 points and adding four rebounds. White was the third Lady Cougars to score in double figures, finishing with 10 points. She also had five rebounds and three assists.
Shull, who was saddled with foul trouble for most of the game and played limited minutes, finished with eight points and four rebounds. Cassidy Swift closed out the Lady Cougar scoring with four points and added six boards.
In addition to the four Lady Cougars, the Lady Cats put three players onto the All-Tournament Team, Clemmons, Carnes and Rich. Butler County’s Katie Graham and Madeline Drake, and Whitesville Trinity’s Hannah Armes and Jamie Mattingly were also named to the team.
Named to the All-12th District Regular Season Team were Shull and Stewart, from Grayson County, Drake and Graham, from Butler County, and Rich, from Edmonson County.
An All-Academic squad was also named, made up of Grayson County’s Katie Beeler, Graham, from Butler County, Carnes, from Edmonson County, and Kelsey Armes, from Whitesville.