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If the LaRue County Lady Hawks need any extra motivation heading into their postseason debut tonight in Munfordville, all they need to do is take a glimpse at their past.
Last year, the Lady Hawks secured their fourth consecutive winning season, matching a feat previously accomplished from November 1991 to February 1995. They also ended a 16-year losing streak when it came to beating the Hart County Lady Raiders on the road. And they put themselves in position to beat the Lady Raiders twice in one season, something they had only done one other time in the previous 14 seasons.
Still, all of their achievements were for naught as the second-seeded Lady Raiders knocked off the third-seeded Lady Hawks, 59-53 in the 18th District Tournament semifinals in Greensburg.
“We lost in the first round, which was really hard to do, especially after winning it the year before,” LaRue County senior center Alisha Durbin recalled Monday afternoon during a break in practice. “And not even making it to finals, yeah, it was definitely frustrating.”
As the teams renew their rivalry at 6:30 tonight in the district tournament semifinals, Durbin said avenging last year’s painful loss has served as a big motivator.
“We’re definitely using it as motivation because it is who we lost to in the first round last year,” said Durbin, who had a double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds) in the game. “So we want to go out and beat them by a lot this year.”
The top-seeded Lady Hawks (23-5) have already done that twice this season to the fourth-seeded Lady Raiders (7-18). LaRue County cruised Dec. 7 in Munfordville, 74-39 before easily winning again Jan. 11 in Hodgenville, 66-25.
For LaRue County standout junior Ivy Brown, there is no chance of déjà vu tonight.
“No – not in my mind,” said Brown, whose team climbed to 12th Monday in the latest Associated Press statewide poll. “I know we’re a better team and I know if we play to our capabilities, there’s nobody in our district who can stop us.”
The Lady Hawks have certainly played to their capabilities down the stretch, having won five straight, 12-of-13 and 17 of their last 19 games.
In order to make it six straight, LaRue County coach Travis Wootton said his team needs to come out raring to break from the gate.
“We’ve got to get off to a good start,” he said. “We want to get off to a real quick start and bury any thought of that early. It’s kind of the goal.”
The winner of tonight’s game advances to Friday night’s final at 6:30 against the winner of Wednesday’s semifinal between the second-seeded Green County Lady Dragons (17-13) and the third-seeded Caverna Lady Colonels (15-13).
Like last year, the Lady Hawks have had another sweet season. Brown eclipsed the 2,000-point plateau for her career. The team is guaranteed its fifth straight winning season. The Lady Hawks have their highest AP ranking in recent memory. They manhandled Elizabethtown to end their long losing streak to the Lady Panthers. And they played right with Anderson County, which is currently ranked second in the state behind unbeaten Marion County (30-0).
What they must avoid, though, is another letdown.
In order to keep from another sour ending, the Lady Hawks must do what Hart County did to them last season and come ready to play.
“They played a physical game. They knew everything we were doing and they prepared well for us,” Brown said. “That’s what you’ve got to do to beat a good team.”
Nathaniel Bryancan be reached at (270) 505-1758 or firstname.lastname@example.org