Archive for March, 2009

The end for Casey — but not really

There’s no shame in losing to a better team, especially if that loss comes on Saturday morning at the state tournament. Now it’s time to see what the next chapter in Casey County basketball brings.

Casey ended its most memorable season with a 52-43 loss to Iroquois — a team whose speed and aggressive defense were just too much for the Lady Rebels — on Saturday morning at the Girls Sweet Sixteen in Bowling Green. And while the defeat was a bitter pill for the Lady Rebels to swallow — as the final loss of the season always is — even before they left Diddle Arena they were beginning to form a better appreciation for what they had done.

Of course, they had plenty of help from their fan base, which turned out in force again for the semifinal session and remained loyal to the last. Casey’s fans roared as coach Randy Salyers and his players turned to applaud them just after the final buzzer, roared as the Lady Rebels received their semifinalist’s trophy and roared once more as they left the floor. And when the players emerged from the locker room, they found well over 100 of those fans — mostly family and friends — waiting in the hallway to offer a kind word or a hug.

Casey left its mark on the state tournament in that sense, with the kind of fan following that won’t be forgotten at the Sweet Sixteen for some time. But the state tournament also left its mark on Casey, because now its program is changed forever.

Now the history of Casey basketball includes not just another Sweet Sixteen team, but a team that raised the bar for those that will follow. The team’s three seniors and the other players who played the largest role in the Lady Rebels’ best season ever will always be remembered and revered, the girls who are next in line behind them will push themselves just a little harder now that they have seen what’s possible and younger girls who cheered from the seats this week will point to a picture on the wall and dedicate themselves to the game.

* * *

As for the game, the telling numbers were 26, Casey’s turnover total, and 20, the number of points Iroquois scored off those turnovers.

Most of the other numbers didn’t look so bad for the Lady Rebels, who shot the ball well (16-for-33 from the field, 11-for-12 at the line), matched Iroquois in rebounds — although they were hurt badly by the Lady Raiders’ 14 offensive boards — and stayed within arm’s reach until midway through the fourth quarter.

Megan Pittman led Casey with 14 points and six rebounds, Kayla McFarland had 10 points, Lauren Hatter had nine points and three assists and Natalie Wesley had five rebounds. Adia Mathies had 22 points for Iroquois, including 16 in the second half.

(Click here to see the box score and play-by-play from Saturday’s game, and click here to see Casey players’ place among the tournament’s statistical leaders.)

Game coverage is already available at amnews.com, and there’ll be one more story Monday to wrap up the Lady Rebels’ week in Bowling Green and the season.

* * *

The Lady Rebels used their bench heavily in their first two games, but only two reserves — Jasmine Johnson and Dezarae Harmon — saw action Saturday. Casey avoided serious foul trouble, and Salyers made sure there would be no foul trouble in the first half when he had McFarland hold the ball for almost all of the last 2:40 of the second period before playing for a final shot.

* * *

Casey placed two players on the all-tournament team, McFarland and Pittman.

* * *

The Lady Rebels’ fans will get the chance to cheer their team once more at a pep rally at 4 p.m. Sunday at the school gymnasium. Athletic director Victor Black said there are plans to recognize the team in other ways in the coming weeks, including at its postseason banquet.

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Quarterfinal win puts Casey in exclusive company

By advancing to the semifinals of the Girls Sweet Sixteen, the Casey County Lady Rebels have secured a special place in the hearts of Casey County sports fans.

And they deserve some accolades from the rest of us, too.

This area likes its basketball and reveres its heroes of the hardwood as much as any other corner of the state, but fans in our five counties have had precious little to cheer about on the days that champions have been crowned.

In fact, the tiny little list of Advocate-area teams that have played on the final day of the state tournament hasn’t changed since the end of World War II. But it grew by one line today when Casey County defeated Simon Kenton 54-44 in a quarterfinal game in Bowling Green to reach the Saturday morning semifinal round.

How rare is that? Casey is the first local girls team to make the state semifinals, and only four boys teams have done it in the 91 years of that state tournament. More on that a little lower in this post.

* * *

Click on the following links for the box score and play-by-play chart from Casey’s game, as well as the updated tournament bracket.

In addition, visit amnews.com this evening for stories wrapping up the Lady Rebels’ Friday game and previewing their Saturday semifinal. And check back Saturday afternoon for coverage of that semifinal — and perhaps a look ahead to the championship game.

* * *

Casey survived a poor shooting night from the field (31.6 percent) in large part because Simon Kenton was even worse (27.8 percent) and because the Lady Rebels made a living at the free-throw line.

Casey hit 27 of 39 free throws to account for exactly half of its points. And yes, Simon Kenton, had to put the Lady Rebels on the line often in the fourth quarter, but they were already 20-for-25 at the stripe when the final period started. The leading individual shooters at the line were Megan Pittman (7-for-9), Nicole Coffman (5-for-6) and Kayla McFarland (5-for-6).

Lauren Hatter led Casey with 15 points, followed by Pittman and Coffman with 13 each. Pittman had 12 rebounds, Coffman had six and McFarland had five as the Lady Rebels outrebounded Simon Kenton 39-32 overall and 21-8 in the second half. Pittman also blocked three shots.

Simon Kenton lost three players to fouls — it committed 29 in all — while Casey flirted with foul trouble in the first half but lost no one. Hatter had her third foul with 3:01 left in the first half, but she never got a fourth. And Coffman, who played only 9:27 against Johnson Central in the first round before fouling out, was on the floor for about 30 minutes Friday.

* * *

Iroquois will be the toughest test yet for Casey. The Lady Raiders have advanced with wins over Franklin-Simpson in the first round and Montgomery County in the quarters.

Ranked among the top five teams in the state at season’s end, Iroquois plays vicious pressure defense and generates a great deal of its offense from that. Kentucky signee Adia Mathies averages a double-double with 17.7 points and 11.9 rebounds, and sister Asia is also among four double-figure scorers.

* * *

Casey fans again made up a large part of the house at Diddle Arena, where an impressive audience of 4,732 watched wins by Casey and Iroquois. And there’s every reason to think there’s be even more folks pouring out of Casey in the morning, when they don’t have to worry about getting back home for work the next morning (as they did when Wednesday’s game tipped off at 9:38 p.m.) or taking off work to get there (as for today’s 2:30 game).

* * *

Now to conclude the history lesson that started near the top of this post. Only four Advocate-area teams have ever reached the state semifinals, all of them Danville boys teams. One of those teams reached the title game in 1934. Here’s the breakdown:

  • 1933: def. Clear Springs, def. Kavanaugh, lost to Ashland Blazer.
  • 1934: def. Central City, def. Highlands, def. Horse Cave, lost to Ashland Blazer (championship).
  • 1935: def. Kirksey, def. Tompkinsville, lost to Newport.
  • 1945: def. Dawson Springs, def. Providence, lost to Male, lost to Harlan (third-place game).
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A pretty fair win for Casey (despite the fouls)

Falling into foul trouble is usually a recipe for disaster at the state tournament, but the Casey County girls managed to get away with it tonight at the Girls Sweet Sixteen.

Three starters were in danger of fouling out, but that didn’t stop the Lady Rebels’ defense from doing a number on Johnson Central as they rolled to a 54-31 victory in their first-round game in Bowling Green.
Johnson’s shooting percentage suffered mightily against Casey’s halfcourt defense, falling from .214 at halftime to .200 after three quarters to .162 at game’s end. (The Lady Eagles entered with a season mark of .432.)

So it turned out not to matter that Lauren Hatter, Nicole Coffman and Natalie Wesley, Casey’s top scorer and two of its top defenders, each had four fouls by the 2:40 mark of the third quarter.

The Lady Rebels were already starting to pull away by then, and they would go on to lead by as many as 25 points in the fourth quarter of a game that wouldn’t even have been that close had Johnson not made so many trips to the foul line.

Casey advanced to a 2:30 p.m. Friday quarterfinal against Simon Kenton, which defeated Breathitt County 46-37 before the Lady Rebels took the floor.

The Lady Rebels weren’t rattled even though it was their first state tournament game — though not the first for the school — and they were facing a team that was there last year.

“We just had the mindset of it being a normal game and just came out and played our game,” center Megan Pittman told the KHSAA radio network after the game.

Pittman led Casey with 21 points, going 6-for-7 from the field and 9-for-11 at the line, and she had eight rebounds. Kayla McFarland had an even more impressive stat line with 12 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals. Hatter had 12 points, three rebounds and two assists.

(Click these links for a full box score and play-by-play chart, and for an updated bracket with stats from other completed games.)

Surely no one will be happier to have a second game in Diddle than Coffman, who watched much more of Wednesday’s game than she played. She got Casey’s first basket but never scored again, and she was off to the bench with three fouls after just 3:05. She got back into the game at the start of the third quarter, then left after 53 seconds with her fourth foul. Coach Randy Salyers started to put her back in the game later in the period, then thought better of it, but she played 5:29 of the fourth quarter before fouling out with 2:31 left.

Wesley and Hatter each drew their third and fourth fouls in a span of 3:17 in the third quarter, but neither fouled out, perhaps because Salyers was able to empty his bench in the fourth period. But it was already 31-20 by then, and Casey expanded its lead to 37-22 by the end of the third quarter with the three foul-prone players on the bench.

* * *

Casey becomes the first Advocate-area team — boys or girls — to win a state tournament game since the Harrodsburg boys defeated Boone County in a first-round game in 1996. The last local girls team to win a state game was Garrard County, which beat Greenwood in the first round in 1994. No local girls team has ever won a Sweet Sixteen quarterfinal.

* * *

Casey’s session drew an impressive crowd of 3,962 — more than half the capacity of Diddle Arena — a large percentage of them wearing the school’s Columbia blue. The attendance is even more impressive considering Casey was by far the closest school to Bowling Green playing tonight, and its fans had to travel nearly 2 hours.

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Casey set for Sweet Sixteen

There’s finally a reason for some local basketball fans to pay attention to the Girls Sweet Sixteen again, as the tournament will include an Advocate-area team for the first time in six years.

Casey County heads to Bowling Green to face Johnson Central in tonight’s final first-round game at Diddle Arena, and there is reason to believe the Lady Rebels can do more than merely make an appearance. On the other hand, there’s also reason to believe they could be one and done.

If it sounds like I’m on the fence, it could be because I am.

Any power rating you care to dig up shows Casey as not only the favorite in this game but as one of the better teams in the entire field. One such rating that I read yesterday listed them fourth out of the 16 teams. And the Lady Rebels emerged from a good and hotly contested region after going 4-1 against Lincoln and Rockcastle counties, the other two teams at the top of the region.

Casey has three capable scorers — Lauren Hatter, Kayla McFarland and Megan Pittman — who have accounted for two-thirds of its points this season. Their combined scoring average is 38.2 points per game, and the team averages 56.8.

On the other hand, Johnson has more balance. Each of its five starters averages between 8.2 and 12.2 points, and together the account for 50.3 of the Lady Eagles’ 56.8 points per game. (That’s right, the two teams’ scoring averages are identical.)

The Lady Eagles also have experience on their side, having played in the state tournament last year, and I tend to put quite a bit of stock in a team that’s been there before. Their lineup includes four seniors who shouldn’t be rattled when they take the court.

So yes, I could make a case for either team in tonight’s game, and in that case I will pick neither.

* * *

In case you missed it, here’s the preview of tonight’s game from Tuesday’s Advocate. Check Thursday’s paper and amnews.com for full postgame coverage.

* * *

Now for some historical nuggets:

  • As mentioned, Casey is the first local team to reach the Girls Sweet Sixteen in six years. The last Advocate-area girls team to play in the state tournament was Mercer County, which lost to Christian County 70-67 in 2003.
  • Casey’s only previous trip to the state tournament came in 2000, when the Lady Rebels played in Richmond. Their only game there was a 59-55 overtime loss to Lexington Catholic.
  • Johnson is making its second straight trip to Diddle, returning after a 51-31 loss to Elizabethtown last year. Prior to this run, the Lady Eagles also made back-to-back appearances in 2001 and ’02, losing first-round games to Allen County-Scottsville and Perry County Central. The Lady Eagles have made eight state appearances in all and have never won a first-round game.

* * *

Here’s for some logistical info for fans going to the game or otherwise interested:

  • Casey fans who are making the trip down the Cumberland Parkway or following their team from afar should visit this page on the KHSAA Web site. There are rosters and statistics for Casey, Johnson and the other 14 teams, plus links to live statistics, streaming audio and more information that will be updated as the tournament progresses.
  • The audio link is especially important, as no local radio station is airing the game. The game can be heard in parts of this area on Lexington station WVLK-FM (101.5), but that signal probably doesn’t reach Liberty.
  • Tickets are available at Diddle Arena for $11 and $16. Tickets in the Casey cheering section are $8 each and are/were available only through the school. If the Lady Rebels advance, $8 tickets for subsequent games will be available at the arena after any games they win.
  • Casey County will be the home team for its game, with its fans seated in sections 115, 116 and 216. All tickets for its game are also good for the Breathitt County-Simon Kenton game that precedes it.
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Regional review, Tuesday 3/10

News and notes from day 4 of the boys 12th Region Tournament:

  • West Jessamine defeated McCreary Central 47-42 for the championship.
  • West Jessamine wins its first regional championship in its third trip to a title game, and the first for a Jessamine County school since Jessamine County won the 11th Region in 1990, seven years before it was split into two schools. The Colts will play Hazard on March 18 in the opening game of the Boys Sweet Sixteen in Lexington. Hazard defeated Perry County Central 51-48 in overtime to win the 14th Region.
  • The regional final was not a particularly well-played game, as both teams seemed tenuous at times, but it didn’t lack for excitement. It also didn’t lack for atmosphere thanks to a second straight capacity crowd. McCreary fans essentially filled one side of the gym and West Jessamine brought more fans than I’ve ever seen at one of its games.
  • West Jessamine led by nine points with 5:30 to play, but the game came down to the wire before the Colts put McCreary away with two free throws each by Jarrod Polson and Jonathan Rehner in the final 18 seconds. Aaron Watts missed two shots in the lane, both of which were heavily contested, with about 30 seconds left that would have given McCreary a one-point lead with, and after Polson’s two free throws, he missed a 3-point try with about 10 seconds left that would have tied the game.
  • It was 36-27 when McCreary scored eight unanswered points in just 43 seconds — six of them following West Jessamine turnovers — to make it a two-point game. Five of those points came on free throws by Watts, who was 7-for-8 in the fourth quarter and 9-for-10 overall at the foul line.
  • McCreary then managed only two points over the next 2 1/2 minutes, and the Colts regained a five-point lead at 41-36. West Jessamine’s last field goal came on Polson’s coast-to-coast layup with 3:57 left, but it was 8-for-13 at the line in the final 3:38. Watts drove for a basket that made it 43-42 with 57 seconds to go, and his chance to give the Raiders the lead came after West Jessamine’s Keston Bartholomew missed two free throws.
  • Two McCreary starters finished the game on the bench after fouling out. Zack Roark fouled out with 3:57 to go, and Dustin Schrock followed 19 seconds later. There were 14 fouls called in the first three quarters, 22 in the fourth quarter.
  • Polson scored 18 points for West Jessamine, giving him 94 in three tournament games. He was 5-for-10 from the field, 7-for-11 at the line. Kyle Mefford and David Elliott added nine points each for the Colts. Watts finished with a three-game total of 75 points after scoring a game-high 24, going 5-for-11 from the field, and he had a game-high six rebounds. Jacob Dixon added seven points for McCreary.
  • West Jessamine outrebounded McCreary 27-22, even after it was outrebounded 11-6 in the fourth quarter. The Colts outshot the Raiders from the field 39 percent to 34 percent.
  • Looking ahead — and it’s never too early to look ahead — you have to figure both of these teams will be in the title chase again next season. West Jessamine loses two starters (Rehner and Nick Zieman) to graduation, and McCreary loses one (Dustin Schrock). As for the other semifinalists, Lincoln County loses three starters (Trevor Edgington, Skyler Gilbert, Ethan Spurlin), while Wayne County returns all five.
  • The boys all-tournament team: Jacob Dixon, McCreary Central; Gavin Dunagan, Wayne County; Trevor Edgington, Lincoln County; Brad Jeffries, Casey County; Clay McKenzie, East Jessamine; Kyle Mefford, West Jessamine; Jonathan Rehner, West Jessamine; Jarrod Polson, West Jessamine; Zack Roark, McCreary Central; Austin Shearer, Wayne County; Ethan Spurlin, Lincoln County; Derrick Thacker, Rockcastle County; Kruz Warner, Danville; Aaron Watts, McCreary Central.
  • The Other 15: Here are your boys regional winners, in state tournament bracket order: West Jessamine (12th Region), Hazard (14th), Grayson County (3rd), Adair County (5th), Central (6th), Graves County (1st), Eastern (7th), Corbin (13th), Lexington Catholic (11th), Bowling Green (4th), Holmes (9th), Christian County (2nd), Mason County (10th), Shelby Valley (15th), Anderson County (8th), Elliott County (16th). … Anderson County won the 8th on a half-court buzzer-beater by C.J. Penny, beating Shelby County 52-49 after a Shelby player missed a free throw on the front end of the bonus with 4.2 seconds left. … Lexington Catholic upset a Scott County team crippled by the loss of leading scorer Richie Phares to win the 11th final 68-67 on two free throws by Taylor Martin with 3.8 seconds left. Scott had won 24 straight games. … In the fifth meeting this season between Corbin and South Laurel, the Redhounds rolled 71-35 to win the 13th and go 4-1 against their 50th District rivals, while Adair County outlasted North Hardin 82-76 in double-overtime to win the 5th.
  • Finally, thanks to all of you who have checked in here for 12th Region Tournament info over the last 10 days. There were more readers last week than in any single week since this blog began 27 months ago, and I’m grateful.
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Hatter, Story win girls regional awards

Lauren Hatter of Casey County and Don Story of Lincoln County have been voted the 12th Region player and coach of the year by the Kentucky Association of Basketball Coaches.

Hatter is averaging 13.8 points and 4.1 assists (both team highs) along with 4.3 rebounds for Casey, which plays Johnson Central on Wednesday in the Girls Sweet Sixteen. Her award comes with an automatic invitation to the Kentucky all-star tryouts next month.

Story led Lincoln to a 26-6 record that included the 47th District championship. The Lady Patriots led all 12th Region teams in scoring defense (37.1 points allowed per game), won a second consecutive 45th District championship and reached the regional finals before losing to Casey.

The two will receive their awards Friday at the Girls Sweet Sixteen, along with the other regional winners. Click here for the full list.

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Regional review, Monday 3/9

News and notes from day 3 of the boys 12th Region Tournament at Lincoln County:

  • West Jessamine defeated Wayne County 62-49; McCreary Central defeated Lincoln County 47-44. West Jessamine plays McCreary for the championship Tuesday night.
  • West Jessamine was in control of the first game from start to finish thanks to another big night by Jarrod Polson, who scored 38 points for the second straight game. Polson scored the Colts’ first five points and eight of their first 10 — including two 3-pointers — to give them a 10-3 lead 2:42 into the game.
  • Wayne trailed by 12 at halftime but fought its way back, pulling to within 38-35 over the first 5-plus minutes of the second half. Austin Shearer missed a 3-pointer that would have tied the game with 2:05 left in the third quarter, and the Cardinals never got another chance to tie or take the lead.
  • Nick Zieman had eight points for West Jessamine, and six other Colts had two or four points. Gavin Dunagan led Wayne with 17 points, followed by Shearer with 10.
  • The second game was as good as you could want a high school basketball game to be — unless you were a Lincoln fan. A capacity crowd, a great atmosphere and a back-and-forth game that came down to the last possession.
  • McCreary survived a scoreless drought of 5:35 in the third quarter, when its 30-25 halftime lead turned into a 33-28 Lincoln lead. Meanwhile, the Patriots went scoreless after taking that lead for 4:46, and the Raiders regained a five-point lead in the final minute of the third quarter.
  • McCreary killed 5:10 in the fourth quarter with two possessions, then scored four straight points to go up 45-41 with 38 seconds left. The Raiders’ Aaron Watts hit two free throws with 12 seconds left for the final points of the game, and Ethan Spurlin missed the 3-point shot that would have tied the game.
  • Watts led McCreary with 21 points, 14 of them in the first half, and Zack Roark added 13 points. Trevor Edgington led Lincoln with 15 points, going 5-for-8 from 3-point range. Spurlin scored only 7 points, and he was 0-for-8 from 3-point range. Spurlin had taken ill over the weekend and was taking antibiotics. He seemed tired at times, and many of his missed shots were short.
  • The championship is a rematch of a Dec. 12 game at Stearns that McCreary won 47-46 on a layup by Roark with about 10 seconds left. Watts then stripped the ball from a West Jessamine player to thwart the Colts’ last chance. Watts scored 23 points and Polson scored 20 in that game.
  • West Jessamine (25-8) is playing in the regional finals for the second straight year, having lost 51-36 to Lincoln in last year’s title game. The Colts also lost to Henry Clay in the 11th Region finals in 2003. The school has no regional titles, but Jessamine County won one in 1990 (11th Region) before it was split into two schools.
  • McCreary (21-11) is making its first appearance in the regional finals since 1993, when the Raiders lost to Casey County after upsetting Pulaski County in the semfinals. The school’s one and only regional title came in 1983. McCreary County, known as the Indians, won the region in 1946, 1964 and 1976 as McCreary County.
  • The Other 15: Two Boys Sweet Sixteen bids went out tonight as Grayson County edged Muhlenberg North in the 3rd Region and Shelby Valley routed Lawrence County in the 15th. Every other regional champion is crowned tonight. … State tournament regular Pleasure Ridge Park won’t be in Rupp Arena this year after losing to Shawnee 80-69 in a 6th semifinal. … Jeffersontown edged Ballard 64-63 in a showdown in the 7th.
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Regional boys hoops hall adds 2008 class

A former Casey County player and his coach and three men with ties to Harrodsburg are in this year’s class of the 12th Region Boys Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

The Casey Countians are Phil Williams, who played for the Rebels and is now an assistant coach, and Bob Payne, who coached Williams at Casey and also coached at Russell County.

Williams said last week that he was thrilled to be selected and that it means even more to him because he’s being honored at the same time as Payne.

The Harrodsburg honorees are Chris Huff, who starred for the Pioneers in the 1980s; Greg Edwards, who coached the 1996 team that won a regional championship and remains the last area team to win a game at the Boys Sweet Sixteen; and David Collier, a fixture for years at the scorer’s table at Aggie Sale Gymnasium.

A total of 19 men were selected for the fourth class of this hall of fame, which is open to those affiliated with 12th Region schools past and present. They will be honored at halftime of Tuesday’s boys 12th Region Tournament championship in Stanford.

Here’s the full list of honorees:

Players: Paul Andrews, Hazel Green; Ray Blevins, Wayne County; Darryl Dunagan, Monticello; Forrest Dunagan, Wayne County; Jeff Hoover, Russell County; Chris Huff, Harrodsburg; Don Parsons, Lily; Bobby Taylor, Lily; Phil Williams, Casey County; Charles Wood, Pine Knot.

Coaches: Greg Edwards, Harrodsburg/Mercer County/Boyle County; Donn Marston, Danville; Bob Payne, Casey County/Russell County; Jerry Stephens, McCreary Central.

Contributors: Sam Brown, Wayne County; Jack Bruner, London; David Collier, Harrodsburg; Jimmy Durham, Laurel County/North Laurel; Ben Reeves, Garrard County.

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Regional review, Saturday 3/7

News and notes from day 4 of the girls 12th Region Tournament at Pulaski County:

  • Casey County defeated Lincoln County 32-21 for the 12th Region championship.
  • Casey won its second regional title and its first since 2000 and improved to 2-2 in regional title games. The Lady Rebels play Johnson Central on Wednesday in the first round of the Girls Sweet Sixteen. Johnson Central defeated Phelps 53-39 on Saturday to win the 15th Region.
  • Just like their game 15 days earlier, this game was a defensive struggle — with the emphasis on struggle. Casey struggled to score in the first half, managing only five points in the first 13 minutes of the game, which included a scoreless run of nearly 11 minutes after it took a 5-2 lead. Lincoln did likewise in the second half, when it scored only eight points on 3-of-23 shooting from the field.
  • The Lady Rebels caught Lincoln at 15-all early in the third quarter and led 22-17 by the end of that period. The Lady Patriots couldn’t muster any offense in the fourth, when they went 1-for-14, with the one coming in the closing seconds of the game and with their fate already sealed.
  • Lauren Hatter led Casey with 17 points, including 11 in the second half. Jessica Upchurch, wearing a bandage to protect the four stitches she took on her chin after an injury in Friday’s semifinal, had seven points and 13 rebounds for Lincoln.
  • Casey coach Randy Salyers said after the Lady Rebels lost to Rockcastle County in last year’s regional final that they would learn from that experience, and on Saturday he said that he believed his team was the best in the region this season.
  • The girls all-tournament team: Jackie Alexander, Rockcastle County; Kayla Bowlin, Wayne County; Kendra Brown, Lincoln County, Nikki Bustle, Lincoln County; Nicole Coffman, Casey County; Leah Flora, Mercer County; Danay Fothergill, Southwestern; Sara Hammond, Rockcastle County; Lauren Hatter, Casey County; Hayley Hellyer, Boyle County; Kayla McFarland, Casey County; Clara Mitchell, East Jessamine; Megan Pittman, Casey County; Abra Sickles, Mercer County; Jessica Upchurch, Lincoln County.
  • The boys 12th Region Tournament resumes Monday with what should be an entertaining semifinal session. Wayne County plays West Jessamine at 6 p.m., followed by McCreary Central and Lincoln County. The first game is a rematch of West Jessamine’s 63-61 win Feb. 13 in Monticello; the second is a rematch of Lincoln’s 70-54 win Feb. 5 in Stanford.
  • The Other 15: Here are the girls regional winners, in order of the state tournament bracket from top to bottom: Iroquois (6th Region), Franklin-Simpson (4th), Louisville Christian (7th), Montgomery County (10th), Breathitt County (14th), Simon Kenton (8th), Casey County (12th), Johnson Central (15th), Lexington Christian (11th), Elizabethtown (5th), Rowan County (16th), Boone County (9th), Ohio County (3rd), Clay County (13th), Marshall County (1st), Henderson County (2nd). … There were no real surprises or stunning upsets in Saturday’s girls finals. … Boys games were played in five regions, including the 11th, where Scott County and Lexington Catholic set up a Monday title game showdown with wins over Lafayette and Madison Central, respectively. And there was a stunner in the boys 4th, where Russell County, with a 22-6 record and a suspect schedule, ousted tourney favorite Warren Central 65-57.
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Regional review, Friday 3/6

News and notes from day 3 of the girls 12th Region Tournament at Pulaski County (compiled from afar while covering the NCAA tournament at Centre College):

  • Casey County defeated Mercer County 67-41; Lincoln County defeated Rockcastle County 50-49. Casey plays Lincoln for the championship Saturday night.
  • No surprises in game one, as Casey rolled over Mercer for the second time this season. The Lady Rebels finished the first quarter with a 10-0 run to lead 20-10, then extended their lead with a 13-2 run in the second quarter and led 35-20 at halftime.
  • The star of the show was Casey center Megan Pittman, despite Mercer’s best efforts to get her in foul trouble. Pittman scored her 1,000th career point — remember, she’s a freshman — and finished with 16 points. She did pick up two fouls in the first quarter, but Nicole Coffman scored eight points and Lauren Hatter had five during the aforementioned 13-2 run in Pittman’s absence.
  • Coffman had 14 points and Hatter had 13 for Casey. Abra Sickles led Mercer with 16, but no other Titan had more than six.
  • Lincoln survived the second game only after Rockcastle missed three shots in the last 10 seconds while the Lady Patriots clung to a one-point lead, and only after guard Jessica Upchurch was injured twice and stitched up once in the fourth quarter. It took several minutes to close the cut on her chin, but all that happened on the court and she missed only a few seconds of action before returning for the final 2 1/2 minutes.
  • The Lady Patriots squandered the 43-33 lead they held late in the third quarter, and 4:15 later Rockcastle had gone in front 46-45 with 4:59 left. The teams traded only a couple of scores in the remaining time before Lincoln’s Keira Henderson sank one of two free throws with 11 seconds left to break a 49-all tie.
  • Upchurch finished with 15 points and eight rebounds for Lincoln. Nikki Bustle added 14 points, 11 of them in the first half. Rockcastle got 16 points from Jackie Alexander and 13 from Sara Hammond.
  • On to the championship, a rematch of Casey’s 31-30 win Feb. 20 at Stanford in the regular-season finale for both teams. The Lady Rebels failed to score in the fourth quarter but still held on to hand Lincoln its only loss to a 12th Region team this season. (To refresh your memory, here’s a link to Larry Vaught’s story from that game.)
  • Casey (26-3) is making its third appearance in the regional finals since 2000. The Lady Rebels defeated Wayne County 64-51 that year at Boyle County for their only berth in the Girls Sweet Sixteen; they lost last year’s final to Rockcastle County at Lincoln, where the game was postponed from Saturday night to Sunday afternoon due to a winter storm.
  • Lincoln (26-5) is in the finals for the first time since 2006, when it lost on its home court to Rockcastle 52-40 in coach Don Story’s first season. The Lady Patriots won their only regional title in 2001 with a 63-54 win over Boyle County at Russell County.
  • The Other 15: Three Girls Sweet Sixteen berths were awarded tonight as Franklin-Simpson beat Barren County in the 3rd Region, Montgomery County beat George Rogers Clark in the 10th and Rowan County beat Elliott County in the 16th. The other 13 regional champions will be crowned tonight. … The 12th Region winner meets the 15th Region champion on Wednesday in the state tournament, and that will be either Phelps or Johnson Central. Phelps beat Paintsville 58-48 and Johnson Central beat Betsy Layne 42-19 in tonight’s semifinals. … In the one and only boys game played in the state tonight, Muhlenberg North beat Owensboro, my pick to win the 3rd Region, 56-55. Guess Muhlenberg North is my new pick to win the 3rd.
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