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Rarely in Tim Mudd’s prolific career have his Elizabethtown Lady Panthers entered a game as a huge underdog.
Of course, rarely have the Lady Panthers faced a team such as the Marion County Lady Knights.
Entering their game at 6 tonight in the late semifinal at the Girls’ 5th Region Basketball Tournament at Green County High School in Greensburg, the 17th District Tournament champion Lady Panthers (23-7) are trying to find a way to do something no team has done this season – beat the 20th District champion Lady Knights (33-0).
“I don’t see how any way in the world we should feel any pressure going into tomorrow,” Mudd said Saturday afternoon. “I know there aren’t many people who think we can win. But I think our girls are confident and they feel like if we do the things we should, we could be competitive.
“However, I understand we are a definitive underdog,” Mudd added. “But we’ve got nothing to lose.”
The Lady Panthers, who pulled away for a 65-37 win over 18th District runner-up Caverna in their quarterfinal Thursday night, practiced Saturday afternoon to prepare for the Lady Knights, the three-time defending region champions with a 40-game winning streak against region teams.
“I think we’ve got everything in that we can get in,” Mudd said of the Lady Panthers’ preparations. “But you really can’t focus on everything because they’re just too talented.”
The Lady Knights, who rolled to an 87-23 win over 19th District runner-up Washington County in their semifinal later Thursday, feature a solid six-woman rotation led by Makayla Epps.
Daughter of former University of Kentucky star guard Anthony Epps, the younger Epps is a McDonald’s All-American and 1-of-5 finalists for the state’s Miss Basketball award for seniors. Epps averages 22.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, shoots 35 percent from the 3-point arc and better than 70 percent from the foul line.
She is ranked as the 37th-best senior overall — and the No. 10 point guard — in the country by ESPN.com. In her team’s 73-43 regular-season win over Elizabethtown, Epps had four rebounds and scored 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting.
“She’s been as good as any that I’ve coached against and I have a lot of respect for that kid,” Mudd said. “She has a very, very good understanding of the game of basketball – as good as I’ve seen. She does so many things that you just can’t teach. She’s a good basketball player who controls the whole game on the offensive end. And on the defensive end, she does a pretty dang-gone good job of controlling what teams can do.”
Senior forward Kyvin Goodin-Rogers, another Miss Basketball finalist, averages 12.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Both Epps and Goodin-Rogers have signed with Kentucky.
Senior forward Logan Powell, who’s headed to Norfolk State, gives the Lady Knights a third player who is NCAA Division-I bound. Powell averages 9.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game and posted a double-double (21 points, 11 rebounds) against Elizabethtown in the teams’ first meeting this season.
Junior forward Alexus Calhoun shoots better than 50 percent from the field and averages 7.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game and senior guard Patrice Tonge averages 10 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. Off the bench, eighth-grade guard Haeli Howard is shooting better than 31 percent from the arc and tied her career high with 22 points in her last outing.
The Lady Knights, who were ranked sixth in the country in last week’s USA Today Sports Super 25, are coached by Naismith Award National Coach of the Year Trent Milby.
With as much as they have going against them today, the Lady Panthers must focus on themselves before trying to worry about Marion County, Mudd said.
“We have to make good decisions and take care of the basketball and quick shots against this team will be layups,” he said. “We have to play smarter than the first time we played them. Now the first time we played them was the same way we would against most teams, but they’re a little bit different animal.”
Nathaniel Bryancan be reached at (270) 505-1758 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Elizabethtown-based Kentucky Sports Broadcasting Network (KSBN) is planning to carry the game live online with audio and video. Click here near game time: http://meridix.com/everywhere.php?liveid=KSBN1979