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OWENSBORO — Maya Luney couldn’t really believe what she was seeing.
The Ohio County Lady Eagles had whittled Meade County’s 15-point lead to three with 1:17 remaining Saturday, and Luney’s career flashed before her eyes.
“It’s an awful feeling when you feel like it’s slipping away,” the senior center said. “That’s not to be negative or anything like that. When you feel it slipping away, you just don’t know what to do.”
But Katie Wilson, one of the team’s smallest players, came through in a big way.
The reserve freshman guard hit two free throws in the final 36 seconds to help Meade County hold off Ohio County, 53-48 in the second semifinal of the Girls’ 3rd Region Basketball Tournament at the Owensboro Sports Center.
“I looked at Katie and told her to step up,” Luney said. “We had her back and she had ours. She stepped up in a huge way. I looked at her when she was shooting those free throws and one second it looked like she was going to cry, but then I looked at her again and she had that fire in her eyes.”
Wilson hit 1-of-2 foul shots for a 50-46 lead with 36.4 seconds remaining. She missed the back end of a 1-and-1, but Luney got a hand on the ball and tipped it out to Wilson. She was fouled with 31.7 seconds to go and hit 1-of-2 shots. That was enough cushion for the Lady Waves (23-9), who topped the Lady Eagles for the second time this season.
Ohio County made Meade County earn this one, especially in the fourth quarter.
The Lady Waves built a 42-27 lead heading to the fourth, but the Lady Eagles sliced the deficit to 45-35 on a 3-pointer by senior guard Deanna Raley and a three-point play from junior forward Sequoya Huff with 5:59 left to play.
After a timeout, Ohio County senior guard McKenzie Tichenor scored four points to make it 45-39 with 3:55 to go. Sophomore forward Morgan Turner hit a jumper in the lane, but Huff answered on the other end.
Junior guard Raley Johnson hit two free throws to make it 49-41, before Raley drained a 3 to bring pull the Lady Eagles to within 49-44 with 2:22 remaining.
“They’re very good. Tichenor and Raley are all-regional players who didn’t want their seasons to end,” Meade County coach Josh Hurt said. “They started playing more physical, which I understood. We got on a roll and had it at 15 and we wanted to finish them. But we knew it was going to be tight all the way to the end.”
Tichenor made two free throws with 1:17 left to make it 49-46, but Turner said the Lady Waves weren’t hitting the panic button.
“I figured they would make a run. And they’re such a good team that you’ve got to expect them to get on a run like that,” said Turner, who scored a game-high 20 points. “My main focus then was getting my team back on track and getting stops and not worrying about anything but winning.”
Ohio County had a shot to pull closer or tie the game after a turnover, but a 3-pointer fell short and Meade County grabbed the rebound. Wilson was fouled after 15 seconds ran off the clock.
Luney was somehow able to get in the lane and get the ball back out to Wilson.
“It was just me doing what I do as a rebounder,” said Luney, who finished with 10 rebounds. “Katie was in the right place at the right time. I didn’t even grab it; I just tipped it. I didn’t know who it was going to or where it was going, but Katie just happened to be there. She did what she had to do and attacked the basket and got back to the free throw line.”
And it helped the Lady Waves make it to Monday’s tournament final, their first since winning the 5th Region in 1995. Meade County will face Owensboro Catholic, which advanced with a 79-69 win over Muhlenberg County, at 8.
The Lady Waves are one step closer to their goal of making it to the state tournament at Western Kentucky University’s Diddle Arena.
“All year, we’ve been looking forward to this,” Turner said. “I don’t know why I’m so emotional, but I was crying my eyes out with 13 seconds left. I can’t put into words how much this means to us.”
MEADE COUNTY 53, OHIO COUNTY 48
Ohio County 13 10 4 21—48
Meade County 13 14 15 11—53
Ohio County (24-9)
Deanna Raley 18, Sequoya Huff 18, McKenzie Tichenor 6, Tate Parker 4, Allison Druin 2. FG: 13-37. FT: 16-20. 3-pointers: 6-18 (Raley 4-8, Tichenor 1-7, Huff 1-2, Sarah Stone 0-1). Rebs: 24 (Stone 8, Raley 5, Huff 5). Assists: 5 (Tichenor 5). Steals: 3 (Tichenor 1, Parker 1, Stone 1).
Meade County (23-9)
Morgan Turner 20, Raley Johnson 18, Addi Lynch 4, Maya Luney 3, Kelsey Sutton 3, Katelyn Cucino 3, Katie Wilson 2. FG: 18-41. FT: 9-15. 3-pointers: 8-20 (Turner 4-8, Johnson 2-8, Cucino 1-3, Sutton 1-1). Rebs: 19 (Luney 10). Assists: 11 (Johnson 3, Lynch 3). Steals: 10 (Johnson 3, Lynch 3).
Josh Claywell can be reached at (270) 505-1752 or firstname.lastname@example.org.