It wasn’t easy whatsoever.
“It’s not supposed to be,” No. 3-ranked Elizabethtown girls’ basketball coach Donnie Swiney said.
That came on the heels of the Lady Panthers’ 60-56 victory over 17th District foe North Hardin Monday evening inside the Ron Bevars Gymnasium.
“What I told them in there tonight, I could not have been more proud of them if they had beaten them by 40 because they showed some toughness,” Swiney said. “We have been dealt a sour hand today. We couldn’t catch a break in the game. But they kept fighting and they kept fighting.
“Give North Hardin credit, they’re not gonna back down. They just keep playing and playing and playing. It doesn’t matter if (Addison) Sutton is dribbling the ball up the floor or standing wide open on the wing, she can hit it and she did. You have to give them credit for finding her and give her credit because she still has to make the shot. She made a lot of big shots for them.”
Sutton finished with 24 points, including five 3s, the final one that went through as the buzzer sounded.
“Jadeta (Gregory) and Dez (Bryant) did a great job in the second half, especially of settling down and getting themselves into position where they could make those passes (to Sutton),” North Hardin coach Whitney Hooper said. “Sometimes we got ourselves too deep or in the wrong position where we couldn’t makes those passes because we were going away from her.
“We tried to get our offense going in her direction, so when we had those openings we found them. Credit to her (Sutton) because there wasn’t a lot of space. She got her feet set and knocked them down.”
Whitney Hay hit a bucket at 2:25 of the fourth quarter to give her squad a 50-44 lead.
North Hardin’s Addison Sutton hit two free throws 20 seconds later and then teammate ZahRiyah Rupp an old-fashioned three-point play at 1:04 to make it 50-49.
Hay made two free throws at 57.2 and Rupp answered with two of her own at 48.3.
Hay made two more at 47.2 and, after a Lady Trojans turnover, Hay made 1-of-2 at 28.8 for a 55-51 lead.
Rupp canned two freebies at 24.5 and Hay sank 1-of-2 at 22.5 for a 56-53 cushion.
“I just told myself I need to go out and have more fun,” said Hay, who finished with a game-high 28 points, including 12-for-14 from the line. “I know I’ve said that a lot, but I really haven’t been doing that, putting it into action. I’ve really been working on my shot a lot over the weekend. I knew I just needed more confidence. I just had to stay resilient when I was missing. That’s the key. I know how good of a shooter I am and percentage-wise it will fix itself if I just keep shooting and forget about the misses.”
Elizabethtown’s Kenzie Franklin grabbed an offensive rebound on Hay’s miss and was fouled. She went to the line and missed, but Lady Panthers seventh-grader Leah Macy grabbed the rebound and was tied up for a jump ball that remained with the visitors.
Kayra Freeman received the inbounds pass and was fouled. She canned both charity tosses for a 58-53 lead with 16.1 seconds showing.
Macy grabbed a North Hardin missed shot, was fouled and sank both free throws with 4.5 seconds showing for a 60-53 lead.
“I’m really proud of her,” Hay said of Macy. “I’ve been telling multiple people for a long time that she deserves minutes on the varsity because she’s that kind of player. The thing that sticks out most to me about her and Xavi (Smalley) being so young is their confidence. They have no problem going into a varsity game and feeling like they belong. That’s just amazing because when I was their age, I did not have that. I was scared to death. And they might be scared to death, but they definitely don’t show it.”
Macy was 4-for-4 from the line in the fourth period and spent her time defensively guarding Sutton.
“She played some huge minutes and did a pretty good job on Sutton in the fourth quarter,” Swiney said. “To go get that rebound, be strong through the foul, step up and hit those free throws — that’s big time, especially for a seventh-grader.
“Our entire bench gave us really good minutes. Brooklyn (Cann) played well. Livie (Olivia Yurcisin) and Mackenzie (Franklin) had to jump in that starting role and played well.”
The Lady Panthers were missing senior guard Ellie Taylor and Smalley.
“We can only play against the ones who show up,” Hooper said. “Even though they obviously lost some height, they’re still pretty darn big inside. I still feel like we’re undersized in there.”
Gregor finished with 12 points and Rupp 11. She was 5-for-5 from the line and the team was 19-for-22.
“I liked our chemistry tonight, but I also liked our response,” Hooper said. “There were times when everything didn’t go pretty. People weren’t getting frustrated with each other. I think that helped us when we were down eight going into the fourth quarter. When things weren’t necessarily going our way, we were able to settle and keep finding those things that were going well.”
Elizabethtown held a 7-1 lead at 3:23 of the first quarter and that ballooned to 13-3 after treys by Freeman and Cann. The lead eventually got to 17-3. It was 19-7 at 3:11 of the second quarter and was 21-12 at halftime after Sutton canned a three at the buzzer.
“I think we settled down and relaxed. We made some adjustments offensively,” Hooper said of the 44-point second half. “We got ourselves out of some places that were just not good. We put ourselves dead out of water a couple times offensively. We rotated better defensively.”
Elizabethtown (17-2, 6-0) visits No. 9-ranked Franklin County (15-3) at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
North Hardin (13-8, 2-2), which has lost 5-of-6, welcomes Campbellsville (10-6) at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
ELIZABETHTOWN 60, NORTH HARDIN 56
Elizabethtown 17 4 22 17–60
North Hardin 3 9 23 21–56
ELIZABETHTOWN: Hay 28, Freeman 13, Cormier 7, Macy 4, Yurcisin 3, Cann 3, Franklin 2. FG: 15. FT: 24-30. 3-pointers: Hay 4, Cormier 2, Freeman.
NORTH HARDIN: Sutton 24, Gregory 12, Rupp 11, Bryant 5, Woods 2, Scherer 2. FG: 15. FT: 19-22. 3-pointers: Sutton 5, Bryant, Gregory.