- Special Sections
- Public Notices
GREENSBURG — In a journey to their first appearance in the Girls’ 5th Region Basketball Tournament’s championship game, Ivy Brown and the LaRue County Lady Hawks must have had Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin” playing on a continuous loop on their Iphones, Ipods and whatever else teenage girls listen to music on these days.
Because no matter what kind of hole the 19th District Tournament champion Nelson County Lady Cardinals put the 18th District champion Lady Hawks in Sunday afternoon, the Lady Hawks never lost faith that they were about to make program history inside of Green County High School.
Brown, a junior wing, scored 20 points in the final 13 minutes to help the Lady Hawks overcome several deficits to rally past the Lady Cardinals, 68-67 in the region tournament’s first semifinal.
The win earned the Lady Hawks (27-5) a date with the No. 1-ranked Marion County Lady Knights (34-0) in Tuesday night’s final at 7:30. Marion County advanced with a win over Elizabethtown in Sunday evening’s late semifinal.
Tuesday will be LaRue County’s first berth in the championship and fifth straight for Marion County, which had played Elizabethtown in the previous four title games.
“I’m glad we’re there and I’m glad we get the chance,” said veteran LaRue County coach Travis Wootton. “I’m glad it’s somebody else other than Marion and E’town. There’s finally somebody new.”
After 39 seasons in Hodgenville, that somebody new is the Lady Hawks, who couldn’t have finished the game much better and couldn’t have opened it much worse.
Nelson County (27-6) open the game with an 8-0 run by making its first three shots and the Lady Hawks going 0-for-2 from the field with a turnover. The Lady Cardinals extended their lead to 13 points in the first quarter and 15 points in the opening 10 minutes.
“We just kept fighting,” said Brown, who finished with game highs in points (27) and rebounds (16) as LaRue County won for the ninth straight outing and for the 16th time in its last 17 games. “The coaches told us to keep cool and keep our composure and to keep believing because we wanted this.”
LaRue County fought back enough to cut its first-half deficit to five points on three occasions — the final at 25-20 — but the Lady Cardinals went on a 10-1 run over the final 2:11 of the second quarter to take a 35-21 lead into halftime.
“We knew we could beat them,” said LaRue County senior forward Haley Holt, who helped her team rally by scoring all seven of her points in the third quarter. “The last time we played them they had us down big and we came back and beat them, so we knew we could do it again because we had done it before.”
LaRue County reeled off a 16-7 run in the first 5:11 of the second half behind six points from sophomore guard Alexis Brewer and five points each from Brown and Holt. The surge got the Lady Hawks’ deficit back to five points for the first time since the 3:37 mark of the second quarter.
Nelson County sophomore guard Caitlin Hagan scored the game’s next five points to get the lead back up to nine before LaRue County went on an 11-2 run to tie the score at 46 and 48.
But with time winding down in the third quarter, 6-foot-2 senior center Alyssa Johnston, who was previously scoreless, hit a 3-pointer from the left wing to send Nelson County into the fourth quarter clinging to a 51-48 lead.
“We told the girls earlier in the game that if we could get their lead down between five and seven points at the start of the fourth, then we would give ourselves a shot,” said Wootton, whose team rallied from 14 down to beat Nelson County in the teams’ regular-season meeting in Bardstown.
Nelson County got its lead back up to five points as senior center Cierra Drake — she verbally committed to NCAA Division-I Eastern Kentucky last week — hit a pair of free throws with 7:34 left in the game. Drake finished with team highs in points (21) and rebounds (11) before fouling out in the final 5 minutes.
This time, it was LaRue County’s turn to run. The Lady Hawks scored the next 10 points, with the final six points coming off 3s from Brewer and Brown following back-to-back Lady Cardinal turnovers.
“Those two 3s were huge,” said Brown, who capped off the run by burying a 3 off Brewer’s game-high fifth assist to give the Lady Hawks a 58-53 lead with 6:15 left in the game and prompted Nelson County veteran coach Kelly Wood to call his third timeout in the last 9 minutes. “Not only did those 3s put us up big, but they gave us some motivation and finally got the momentum on our side.”
Nelson County took its last lead at 60-58 with 4:06 left in the game on a drive by senior guard A.J. Lewis. Nelson County junior reserve forward Kaylee Hall tied it at 61 with 3:22 left with a free throw before retying it at 63 with 2:38 on a basket in the lane.
Brewer, who finished with 26 points and five rebounds, gave the Lady Hawks the lead for good at 65-63 with 2:19 left in the game when her drive through the middle of the lane in traffic bounced around before falling in.
Brewer and Brown combined to score their team’s final 20 points.
“We lean on each other and try to take over when we can,” said Brewer, who gets to play for her own region championship after father James led older brothers Anthony and Jordan to the boys’ region title at Bardstown in 2011. “This is big. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
Brown and Brewer combined to hit 3-of-4 free throws in the final 42 seconds to up the Lady Hawks’ lead to 68-63. Hagan pulled the Lady Cardinals within 68-67 with a 3-pointer with 12.1 seconds left and LaRue County turned the ball over on the ensuing inbounds.
Nelson County had two chances to win the game in the final 10 seconds, but missed a 3 and a contested outback in the lane as the Lady Hawks held on.
That means another afternoon of practice today for Holt, but she doesn’t mind. Especially after she said her team could be playing for the region title after surviving Adair County in Wednesday night’s quarterfinals.
“I’m excited and I’m happy to be practicing,” Holt said. “Normally I’m not excited about practice, but in this case, it will be great to be there.”
Nathaniel Bryancan be reached at (270) 505-1758 or at email@example.com.
LARUECOUNTY 68, NELSON COUNTY 67
LaRue County 5 1627 20—68
Nelson County 17 1816 16—67
Team FG FT R TP
LaRueCounty 18-48 27-40 30 68
NelsonCounty 18-47 27-34 40 67
Player FG FT R TP
Ha. Holt 2-10 2-2 2 7
Brewer 6-10 13-17 5 26
A. Durbin 1-5 0-1 3 2
I. Brown 8-18 9-16 16 27
Evans 0-2 3-4 4 3
Eastridge 1-2 0-0 1 3
P. Brown 0-1 0-0 0 0
Player FG FT R TP
Calbert 2-2 5-7 4 9
Lewis 3-4 5-6 7 12
Hagan 2-10 3-3 3 9
Johnston 2-4 1-1 6 6
Drake 6-13 9-10 11 21
Greer 2-4 0-1 4 4
L. Walls 0-0 0-0 1 0
Harman 0-6 2-2 4 2
Hall 1-3 2-4 3 4
3-POINTERS: LARUE COUNTY (5-13): Ivy Brown 2-6, Alexis Brewer 1-1, Delany Eastridge 1-2, Haley Holt 1-4. NELSON COUNTY (4-10): Caitlin Hagan 2-6, A.J. Lewis 1-1, Alyssa Johnston 1-1, Brooklyn Greer 0-1, Brianna Harman 0-1. ASSISTS: LARUE COUNTY (5): Alexis Brewer 5. NELSON COUNTY (12): A.J. Lewis 4, Shila Calbert 3, Alyssa Johnston 3, Brianna Harman 1, Lakin Walls 1.