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LEBANON– The LaRue County Lady Hawks made sure their first trip to the Girls’ 5th Region Basketball Tournament since 2004 will be lengthy one.
The Lady Hawks jumped out to a 14-2 lead and held on for a 53-46 victory over the Washington County Commanderettes in the first round of the region tournament Tuesday night.
“As I’ve stated several times, we’re not always pretty to watch, but we find a way to win,” LaRue County coach Travis Wootton said. “I don’t know how well we were playing, but we got out to a lead and I think we relaxed a little bit. I think we got caught up in the moment. But this was good to get this under our belt.”
LaRue County (27-3) advances to meet Elizabethtown (28-3) at 8 p.m. Friday in the region semifinals. Elizabethtown, which won the regular-season meeting with LaRue County, knocked off Taylor County, 60-47 on Tuesday.
This was LaRue County’s first region victory since a 49-46 decision over Meade County in 1995.
“This is a really, really big win,” said LaRue County junior Nancy Howell, who scored 10 points. “All the girls have never been to a region game, so to win and get to the region semifinals, it’s big.”
Although LaRue County eighth-grader Alexis Brewer said the victory was “huge” for the program, she said that’s not how she treated the game.
“For me, it was just another game,” said Brewer, who scored a game-high 23 points and grabbed six rebounds. “We’ve played 30 this year. This was just another game for us.”
But this wasn’t just any game.
The Lady Hawks raced out to an 11-0 lead powered by Howell’s two 3-pointers. Howell was 3-of-4 on 3-pointers for the game.
“I haven’t scored that much the last couple of games, but I just came out and played my role,” Howell said. “I was just trying to get the team motivated. The first time we played them I didn’t shoot the ball good, so I knew they probably wouldn’t guard me close. I just had to be confident and hit the shots.”
Trailing 18-7, Washington County put together a 13-5 run to pull within 23-21 at halftime. Junior Shay Yocum sparked the run as she scored 13 points of her 22 points in the second quarter.
LaRue County, which led the entire game, managed to pull out to a 38-30 lead in the third quarter before freshman Riquel Logan drained a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The Lady Hawks stretched the lead to seven, but Washington County cut the lead to 45-42 with 2:41 remaining behind the play of sophomore Kenya Turner, who had 21 points and 13 rebounds.
“They have 6-(foot)-3, 6-2 and bring 6-2 off the bench,” Wootton said. “They’re going to give you fits. And Turner can flat out play.”
So can Brewer, who took over in the final 2 minutes. Brewer drove in for a layup, and after senior Valerie Whitlock made two free throws, she went 4-of-6 from the line to seal the win.
For the game, Brewer was 15-of-18 from the foul line.
“That’s not very good,” Brewer said of free throw shooting. “I should be hitting all of them.”
Wootton, though, had a different view.
“We’ve done a good job of hitting them when they count,” Wootton said. “We try to get the ball to Alexis and Ivy (Brown), two of our best free throw shooters. Valerie stepped up and hit two big ones. Seniors should do that. You have to make free throws and we did that.”
Brown picked up two fouls in the first quarter and did not return until the third quarter. She finished with 10 points and six rebounds before fouling out with 35 seconds left.
Chuck Jones can be reached at (270) 505-1759