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.
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.
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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.
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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.