Kentucky’s newest top ranked girls’ basketball team demonstrated its prowess Monday night.
Elizabethtown, freshly minted as No. 1 earlier in the day, responded hours later to its first challenge as queen of the hill by hammering host John Hardin, 59-38, in a 17th District matchup.
In the process, the Lady Panthers ran their unbeaten record to 17-0 and finished regular-season league play at 6-0.
Perfection was hardly an opening trademark for Elizabethtown, which struggled with eight turnovers and 33 percent shooting from the floor in holding a 16-9 advantage after one quarter.
The offensive flow continued with several hiccups in the second period, as the Lady Panthers pushed the halftime edge to 28-18 before finding renewed energy to blow the game open in the third quarter.
Elizabethtown coach Donnie Swiney said the team playing its fourth game in five days may have had an negative effect early, but hopes it pays off down the road.
“Tomorrow (today), these girls are going to play five games in six days,” Swiney said, referring to today’s matchup at Grayson County, which also will be a fourth straight road game. “I know they are tired physically and mentally. That many games in that many days takes a toll.
“But at the same time, later in the year, we want to be able to go four games in four days, or four games in three days,” Swiney added. “To get where we want to go in the postseason it’s going to take playing that kind of basketball.”
The early sluggishness wasn’t lost on the Lady Panthers, but senior leader Kayra Freeman, the team’s second leading scorer, said there also was complacency.
“Physically, I could feel it in my legs from all those games,” said Freeman, who went scoreless from the floor on 0-for-6 shooting in the first half, before storming back with 12 second-half points. “But I think we came into this game overlooking John Hardin. We thought it would be a cakewalk, but they gave us a good game.”
Teammate Leah Macy agreed, saying Elizabethtown wasn’t as prepared as it should have been to start the game.
“Coach Swiney said when you are the No. 1 team you have a bigger target on your back,” said Macy, who along with Sarah Clark, sparked the Lady Panthers over the first two quarters. “We weren’t prepared to play our game and we didn’t play to our potential.”
Despite the slow start, John Hardin could never make a push to get back in the game.
Clark opened the game with a 3-pointer and Elizabethtown never trailed. The Lady Bulldogs closed within 5-3 on a 3-pointer from Reana Butler, but Macy, Clark and Kenzie Franklin sparked an 11-6 run to close the quarter.
Macy scored seven of her team-high 26 points in the second quarter, before adding 10 points in the third period to push the advantage to 46-26.
John Hardin opened the period with a bucket from Sharon Tidwell to make it 30-20, but the Lady Panthers used a 16-3 run to make the game a rout.
“We were able to hang with them for the first half, but that is what we always only seem to do,” said John Hardin coach Nicole Coleman. “We just didn’t do the little things tonight. We didn’t block out, our help side defense needed work and we didn’t finish at the rim. That made a big difference.”
Elizabethtown held its biggest lead at 57-30, as Freeman followed a coast-to-coast layup with a 3-pointer.
The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Lady Bulldogs, who fell to 5-9 overall and 1-5 in district.
ELIZABETHTOWN 59, JOHN HARDIN 38
Elizabethtown 16 12 18 13 – 59
John Hardin 9 9 8 12 – 38
Elizabethtown: Macy 26; Freeman 12; Clark 9; Franklin 7; B. Cann 3; Love 2; FG: 21; FT: 12-20; 3-pointers (5): Freeman 2; B. Cann 1; Clark 1; Franklin 1.
John Hardin: McAllister 16; Tidwell 7; Butler 6; Clay 6; Kettleshake 2; Young 1; FG: 15; FT: 5-12; 3-pointers (3): Butler 2; McAllister 1.