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GREENSBURG— The LaRue County Lady Hawks ran with not just the top team in the 5th Region on Tuesday night, but one of the top squads in the state and even the country in the Marion County Lady Knights.
After overcoming an early flurry of turnovers inside the Green County High School gym, the Lady Hawks outscored the mighty Lady Knights over the final 17 minutes before falling, 82-60 in the highest-scoring championship game in the Girls’ 5th Region Basketball Tournament’s 39-year history.
The loss ended the Lady Hawks’ season at 27-6 and snapped their nine-game winning streak.
Still, helping the program achieve new heights – the Lady Hawks won the 18th District Tournament for the second time in three years after ending a decade-long losing streak to region and state power Elizabethtown – will help ease the pain of ending her career with a loss, said LaRue County senior center Alisha Durbin.
“It’s been amazing and it’s hard right now just because it’s over, but we’ve had an amazing season,” said Durbin, who had seven rebounds as the Lady Hawks dominated the Lady Knights on the glass, 44-28. “The coaches were telling us that this is something that we’ll remember for the rest of our lives – and it is.”
The Lady Hawks will also remember that they were able to do things that no other region teams were able to do. In their previous 16 games against region foes this season, the Lady Knights (35-0) held every one to 29 points or less before halftime and fewer than 25 points after the break.
“You’ve got to take your hat off to LaRue County because they gave us problems offensively,” said Marion County coach Trent Milby, who became just the second girls’ region coach to appear in five consecutive region finals.
The Lady Hawks, led by their own prolific duo of junior wing Ivy Brown (game-high 30 points, game-best 15 rebounds) and sophomore guard Alexis Brewer (24 points, eight rebounds) snapped both of those streaks by trailing 50-32 at the half.
“They’re great and they’re just juniors and sophomores going against us with four seniors and a junior that start,” said Marion County senior point guard Makayla Epps, who was selected as the tournament’s MVP after scoring a team-high 28 points and passing out a game-high 10 assists. “When you have a junior and a sophomore who can both score 20 to 30, you can’t ask for nothing better than that.”
Travis Wootton agreed.
Making his region final debut, LaRue County’s coach considered stall ball to try to slow down the high-scoring Lady Knights.
But with the tall Lady Hawks not featuring guard depth to deal with Marion County’s backcourt of Epps, senior Patrice Tonge (10 points, six rebounds, three assists) and eighth-grade reserve Haeli Howard (11, two, three), Wootton decided the Lady Hawks should go with what got them there.
“We didn’t have enough ball handlers to really be able to contain the up-tempo (style),” Wootton said. “At one point (in practice Monday), we were like, ‘Well, do we try to hold the ball a little bit?’ And we just decided that we weren’t going to be able to.
“So we just played,” he added. “We went out and played and we never backed down. They just made more plays than we did. And they’ve got some good players obviously.”
Players that set a girls’ region record with their fourth straight title, matched Elizabethtown with a region-record 13 title-game appearances for their program and set the record for most points by the winning team in the title game to eclipse Central Hardin’s previous record of 77 in its 1991 win over Green County.
Senior forward Logan Powell, who was the leading scorer in last year’s championship win over Elizabethtown, added 27 points and 10 rebounds. Seven of those points came in a single possession in which she was fouled while shooting but missed the shot. Wootton was whistled for a technical foul after arguing the play and Powell sank all four free throws before burying a 3-pointer from the left corner off the ensuing inbounds.
“We’ve been waiting for her because she’s been struggling the last couple of weeks with her shot,” Milby said. “Sometimes the simplest things can get somebody going. All they have to do is see that ball go in the basket.”
After a slow start against Nelson County in the semifinals Sunday, LaRue County got off to another one as Marion County, which never trailed and was tied just once, raced out to an 8-2 lead as the Lady Hawks made three turnovers in the first 2 minutes.
“We shouldn’t have tried not to play our game, but when it’s worked for us all season, why not keep playing it? But we definitely played a whole lot better the second half,” Brown said. “I think we just calmed down a little bit, but you can’t blame us for having nerves. This was our first time ever being here.”
And just like they did Sunday, the Lady Hawks battled back, pulling within 15-13 with more than 2 minutes left in the first quarter on a 3-pointer by senior forward Haley Holt.
“I think we left it all out there on the floor and we reached all the goals we set for our team,” said Holt, who was joined on the All-Tournament Team by Brewer and Brown.
Marion County went on a 10-2 run over the final 2:07 of the first quarter and led by double digits the rest of the way. Brown scored the first four points after halftime to give LaRue County its closest deficit in the second half at 50-36 with 6:48 left in the third quarter. Powell answered with her seven-point possession just 11 seconds later as LaRue County could draw no closer than 17 the rest of the night.
While Marion County turns its attention to next week’s state tournament in Bowling Green, LaRue County turns its focus to next season. The Lady Hawks figure to be a region contender with Brown, Brewer and Evans returning as starters and the younger sisters – Presley Brown, Hunter Holt and Kristina Durbin – earning playing time this season.
“Obviously there’s only one more thing left to do,” Wootton said, “and that’s win the region.”
Nathaniel Bryancan be reached at (270) 505-1758 or firstname.lastname@example.org
GIRLS’ 5TH REGION BASKETBALL ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
MarionCounty: Haeli Howard, Kyvin Goodin-Rogers, Logan Powell, Patrice Tonge and MVP Makayla Epps.
LaRueCounty: Alexis Brewer, Ivy Brown and Haley Holt.
Elizabethtown: Erin Boley and Reauna Cleaver.
NelsonCounty: Cierra Drake and A.J. Lewis.
AdairCounty: Katie Keltner.
Caverna: Madison Faulkner.
North Hardin: Tamiah Stanford.
WashingtonCounty: No selection.
MarionCounty 25 2517 15—82
LaRue County 15 1716 12—60
Team FG FT R TP
MarionCounty 30-66 17-25 28 82
LaRueCounty 20-52 18-21 44 60
Player FG FT R TP
Epps 9-17 9-11 3 28
Tonge 4-9 1-2 6 10
Calhoun 0-1 0-0 3 0
Powell 10-19 5-9 10 27
Goodin-Rogers 1-6 2-2 4 4
Howard 5-11 0-1 2 11
Burton 0-1 0-0 0 0
Rakes 1-2 0-0 0 2
Player FG FT R TP
Ha. Holt 2-7 0-0 7 5
Brewer 7-16 9-10 8 24
A. Durbin 0-4 1-2 7 1
I. Brown 11-21 8-9 15 30
Evans 0-2 0-0 2 0
P. Brown 0-0 0-0 1 0
Hu. Holt 0-2 0-0 1 0
3-POINTERS: MARION COUNTY (5-12): Logan Powell 2-4, Makayla Epps 1-4, Haeli Howard 1-2, Patrice Tonge 1-1, Timmera Burton 0-1. LARUE COUNTY (2-5): Haley Holt 1-3, Alexis Brewer 1-1, Ivy Brown 0-1. ASSISTS: MARION COUNTY (19): Makayla Epps 10, Haeli Howard 3, Patrice Tonge 3, Logan Powell 2, Alexus Calhoun 1. LARUE COUNTY (5): Alley Evans 3, Haley Holt 2.