Playing better than probably anyone thought they were capable of playing. the Grayson County Lady Cougars saw their season come to a close following a 78-69 loss in double overtime to the Muhlenberg County Mustangs in the opening round of the 3rd Region Tournament.
Despite losing Maddie Stewart to fouls in the first minute of the fourth quarter, losing Breanna Fulkerson on fouls in the last minute of the fourth quarter, then losing Grace White to fouls in the last 20 seconds of the first overtime, the Lady Cougars never quit, battling to the last moment, even when it became obvious in the closing moments of the second overtime that it would be a losing effort.
The Lady Cougars put five players into double-figure scoring, and White finished with a double-double, 13 points and 11 rebounds. The Lady Cougars twice overcame nine-point deficits, once in the first half and again in the second.
To lose such a hard-fought game after expending every bit of energy and passion that was in them was a terrifically hard blow for the young Lady Cougars.
“It was the most sob-filled locker room I’ve ever been a part of,” said Lady Cougar coach Brad Johnson after the game. “That just shows how much it mattered.”
This Lady Cougar team was not expected to make much of a difference in the 3rd Region this year, but they surprised everyone by finishing with 19 wins on the season.
“I’ve told stories about my favorite teams over the years, but I told the girls they were my all-time favorite team,” Johnson said. “I’ve never been prouder of a bunch of girls.
“They just sold out. When things didn’t go our way, they never quit fighting. We had everything go wrong and we were still there in double overtime.”
Kaylan Shull’s three-pointer at the 2:04 mark of the first period gave the Lady Cougars their first lead of the night, 10-9. The lead then changed hands three more times before the Mustangs took a 13-12 lead into the second period.
Muhlenberg then opened the second quarter with a 9-1 run to lead by nine points, 22-13 with 5:38 left in the first half. The Lady Cougars responded with six straight to close to within three, 22-19 with 3:16 left. Grayson County trailed by six points, 29-23 at the half.
A Maddie Stewart lay-up at the 5:59 mark of the third period tied the score 33-33, but seconds later Stewart was hit with her fourth foul and had to head to the bench. The Mustangs then outscored the Lady Cougars 11-2 to lead once more by nine points, 44-35 with 3:07 left in the period.
But Grayson County refused to fold their tents and go quietly. They closed out the third quarter on a 9-2 run to pull back to within two points of the lead, 46-44 heading into the fourth quarter.
Less than a minute into the fourth period, Stewart was whistled for her fourth foul. To that point she had scored 11 points and had six rebounds. No one will know what might have happened in this game had she stayed in the game.
The lead than changed hands on six straight possessions before an old-fashioned three-point play by Muhlenberg’s Hope Marigny gave her team a two-point lead, 55-53 with 2:46 left.
White was fouled and went to the line for two shots with 1:41 left, but could hit just one. Torrie Pollard went to the line for Muhlenberg with 1:13 left, but she could hit just one to make it 56-54. Fulkerson fouled out on that play.
With 52 seconds left, White fed Shull for a left-handed lay-up that tied the score at 56-56.
The Mustangs then worked for the final shot. They got two good looks at the basket but could not get them to fall and White rebounded the second miss, sending the game into the first overtime period.
White opened the scoring with a short jumper at the 3:33 mark, then Shull went to the line at 3:03, but could hit just 1-of-2 to make it 59-56.
Jenna Soderling followed with her fifth three-pointer of the night to tie the score again 59-59. Cassidy Swift answered that with a three of her own at 2:29 and the Lady Cougars led 62-59.
Following a timeout, Ameia Summers drove for a lay-in and was fouled. Her free throw tied the score once more, 62-62 with 2:21 left.
Pollard scored at the 1:33 mark to put the Mustangs up by two, 64-62. Sarah Pierce went to the line with the chance to tie it again with 1:25 left, but hit just one.
With 36 seconds left, Katie Hayes rebounded a missed Lady Cougar shot and was fouled by Pollard, her fifth of the game. Hayes hit both free throws to put the Lady Cougars on top 65-64.
With 19 seconds remaining, White rebounded a missed Muhlenberg shot, but had the ball ripped away by Marigny. White tried to get the ball back, but was called for her fifth foul. Marigny missed the first shot, but hit the second to tie things 65-65.
Grayson County still had time to get off one last shot, but they turned the ball over with 11.3 seconds left. The Mustangs got off three shots in the final seconds but none of them fell, sending the game into the second overtime tied at 65 apiece.
In the final overtime, the Mustangs took an early lead and never gave it back. Jodi Decker stole a ball for the Lady Cougars and drove the length of the floor to pull the Lady Cougars to within two points, 71-69 with 1:15 left to play, but Grayson County would not score again.
The Mustangs put four players into double figures, led by Pollard’s 21 points. Soderling finished with 18 points, while Summers and Marigny had 14 each.
Fulkerson matched White with 13 points and added four rebounds and six assists. Shull and Stewart both finished with 11 points, and Sarah Pierce had 10 points and six rebounds. Swift played a fine game, scoring five points and pulling down nine rebounds.
Hayes finished the night with four points, while Decker had two to complete the scoring.