(Recap Courtesy KyForward.com)
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Marshall County made all 10 free throw attempts in the fourth quarter to upset Bethlehem 58-51 in the quarterfinals of the Mingua Beef Jerky Girls’ Sweet 16® at Rupp Arena.
“Don’t miss,” Marshall County’s Halle Langhi summed up what was going through her head when she attempted each of her six fourth quarter free throws.
Langhi would finish the game with a 15-point, 12-rebound double-double performance that helped control a Bethlehem team that many had penciled into Saturday night’s championship game.
Marshall County (24-2) opened its season with a 67-60 loss at Bethlehem on Jan. 8 and head coach Aaron Beth knew that playing Bethlehem as well as the rugged schedule the Lady Marshals embarked on throughout the season would eventually pay off for his team.
“We have been in these situations where we’ve played tough games all year,” Beth stated after the game. “As a coach, you hear all the time that you need to play a tough schedule and it is going to pay off. I think this year we are a prime example of that. We have had to play a tough schedule all over the state with as far west as we are. Nobody would want to come down that far to play us and the local teams it was hard to find a schedule, so we went all over. We played at Southwestern. We played at Bethlehem. We went to Louisville and played Bardstown.”
The Lady Marshals were led throughout the game by the play of Cayson Conner on both sides of the ball.
Conner, a senior guard, averaged 13.5 points per game going into the quarterfinal contest, but finished with a game-high 24 points thanks to 5-for-13 shooting from the field including one 3-pointer and 7-of-8 from the free throw line.
“She steps up when she needs to,” Beth added about Conner. “Her biggest issue is her confidence in herself. I tell her every single day how good she is. She’s got the ability to take over a basketball game and run the team. That has been set as an example the last two games. The defensive effort when she came up with those two or three steals right there down the stretch was huge.”
Bethlehem (26-5) led for most of the first half and took a 28-26 lead into the locker room, but the Banshees were outscored 11-7 in the third quarter to trail 37-35 at the end of the period.
Bethlehem, however, was able to take a 3-point lead (47-44) as late as 2:05 remaining in the game, but the play of Langhi and Conner fueled Marshall County down the stretch.
The duo scored the final 14 points for Marshall County including eight straight from Conner to give the Lady Marshals a lead they would not relinquish.
Bethlehem, a small school in Bardstown with just 250 students, battled throughout the game, but just couldn’t get into the rhythm they were accustomed to playing.
Ella Thompson, a Miss Basketball candidate, was able to score 20 points and was aided by Amelia Hodges with 12. Thompson and Hodges combined to go 11-for-26 from the field, but the rest of the Banshees were just 7-of-29.
“Words can’t describe how much they mean to me,” said Bethlehem head coach Jason Clark about Thompson and Hodges. “They’ve won 90-some games in the three years that I have been blessed to coach them. Two Class A region championships. Three straight district championships. Two 5th Region championships in three years with a region final mixed in with that and now an Elite 8 performance coming from a school with only 250 kids shows how special these two are. I don’t know what college coaches look for, but these two can play. I know if I was a college coach, I’d take them.”
Marshall County moves on to the state semifinals where the Lady Marshals will take on Henderson County beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Lady Bearcats Ground Flyers, Anderson County Breezes Past Franklin County
Anderson County used a 19-0 second quarter and had little trouble with Franklin County’s defense en route to a 53-35 victory.
Anderson County (28-2) held Brooklynn Miles, a University of Tennessee signee and Miss Basketball candidate, to just one field goal and a total of three points.
Franklin County (18-5) had arguably its worst shooting performance of the season at the worst time going 12-for-46 for a 26.1 shooting percentage. The Lady Flyers were known for their pressure defense, but when the shots are not falling on offense, the transition into a pressure defense simply isn’t there.
“You’ve got to make shots to get into pressure,” Franklin County head coach Joey Thacker frustratingly said. “All those Dr. Naismiths sitting behind me tonight, I hope they realize that.”
Paige Serafini led Anderson County with 14 points off the bench.
Patience Laster also tallied 14 points for Franklin County with Shauvi Kennedy being the only other player in double figures with 10.
Valkyries Outlast Purples
Sacred Heart Academy used a 37-26 scoring margin in the second half to pull away from Bowling Green 66-54.
SHA (23-7) only placed one player in double figures, but Triniti Ralston’s 26 points were enough to fuel the Valkyries into putting more pressure defensively on Bowling Green.
The Purples (19-11) committed a whopping 29 turnovers and never seemed to get any kind of traction on offense.
SHA was able to convert those 29 turnovers by Bowling Green into 37 points.
Josie Gilvin may have only scored six points for SHA, but she turned in an outstanding all-around performance with 11 rebounds, seven steals, three assists and two blocks.
Ralston finished the day’s first game going 5-for-8 from the field and 16-for-20 from the free throw line.
Bowling Green’s Tanaya Bailey (15), Lynkaylah James (14) and Meadow Tisdale (11) combined for 40 points but only got 14 from the rest of the squad.
James added 14 rebounds for the Purples.
SHA will take on Anderson County in the 11 a.m. semifinal on Saturday in a rematch from earlier this season that saw the Lady Bearcats go on the road and take down the Valkyries 69-68 on Feb. 20.
Clutch Free Throws Send Henderson County to Semifinals
Henderson County went 17-for-21 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter to hold off a pesky Russell squad 64-53 in the nightcap of the quarterfinals.
Henderson County (21-4) was 26-for-35 from the charity stripe for the game including 18-for-21 from Sadie Wurth.
Wurth, a senior guard, finished with game-high totals in points (27) and assists (6) for the Lady Colonels.
Russell (20-6) found itself in the hole early falling behind 22-7 at the end of the first quarter before inching back into the thick of things being down just 33-27 at the half.
The third quarter, however, would see Russell add only six points to the scoreboard and fell behind by as many as 15 midways through the fourth.
Kaeli Ross and Aubrey Hill did all they could to keep the Red Devils in the game going for 22 and 18 points, respectively.