BOWLING GREEN - "It's an amazing feeling", Taylor Meadows said of the Lady Marshals Sweet 16 KHSAA State Tournament first round win over Letcher County Central. "Being a senior, I was definitely not ready for our season to be over and it's great knowing this is Marshall County's first win in the State Tournament since it was moved to Diddle Arena and I feel like we left our legacy here and it will be something we will always remember."
Well said by the senior who was named Player of the Game in the 56-52 win and led the team in points with 18.
The Lady Marshals trailed early 7-2 after Letcher County's CheyanneStidham, who averages six points per game, scored the first seven points for the Lady Cougars. A field goal by MariahMcKenty and three pointer by Bailey Greer tied the game up at 7-7 at 5:20 in the first quarter, then an 11-4 run by the Lady Marshals put them up 18-11 at the end of the first quarter.
The Lady Marshals took their biggest lead of the game early in the second quarter after two straight steals by McKenty with the first a pass to Meadows for a three, then a lay-in herself on the second to give them a 25-13 lead. Letcher County out-scored the Lady Marshals 14-6 from that point on to cut the Marshall lead to 31-27 at halftime.
Letcher County's Stidham sank a three to start the third quarter, pulling the Lady Cougars to within one point, then going ahead on a basket and free throws by Julie Cornett to take a 33-31 lead. The Lady Marshals went scoreless in the third quarter until 1:59 when Alex Brown sank two free throws for their first points of the second half. Letcher County out-scored the Lady Marshals 13-4 in the third quarter taking a 40-35 lead.
"They just got stagnent and needed to move", Head Coach Joseph Simmons said of the third quarter scoring drought. "We starting taking some questionable shots and weren't rebounding on the other end". Simmons said the time out at 1:59 after Brown made her free throws was all about getting them refocused.
"We're not a race horse type team but there is one constant we always have and that's a good defensive stop", Simmons said. Simmons attributed their defensive play during the third quarter scoring drought the reason the team stayed in the game.
Alyssa Barnard's basket to start the fourth quarter pulled the team back to within three of Letcher County and a basket by Meadows and free throw by Toni Fehrenbacher tied the game up at 40 a piece. Tied up again at 44 and 46, the Lady Marshals took a 48-46 lead after a field goal by McKenty, then going up 50-46 after a hard fought put-back by Barnard.
Fehrenbacher came up with a key basket for the Lady Marshals with just under two minutes to go to put the team up 52-48 and when asked about the shot said, "When I run the ball in I'm looking to penetrate and to be honest not to take the shot, but she didn't close in on me so I took the opportunity to shoot."
With just one minute to go, the Lady Marshals led 52-50, getting their next four point from free throws to pull out the 56-52 win and a spot in the Elite Eight.
"It's an awesome feeling to be here again and have the opportunity to win at state as a senior", McKenty said in the press conference following the game.
"I was proud of our kids for the fight they showed", Simmons said. "We were able to withstand their third quarter run and that's been a characteristic of this team all season. They're fighters, they never quit."
McKenty was also in double figures for the Lady Marshals with 17 points while Barnard pulled in 10 rebounds in the win. The team shot nearly 82 percent from the free throw line, which was slightly over shadowed by the 100 percent night at the line for the Lady Cougars hitting 10 of 10.
Marshall County will now face Covington Notre Dame who beat Madison Central 57-53 in overtime, in the 8:00 game Friday night. Notre Dame earned their trip to the Sweet 16 by winning the Region 9 tournament over Madison Central coming into the State Tournament with a 26-5 record.
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Marshall: Field Goals 17/45, 3 Pointers 4/14, Free Throws 18/22, Total Rebounds 26, Fouls 9, Assists 5, Turnovers 6, Steals 4
Letcher: Field Goals 19/50, 3 Pointers 4/10, Free Throws 10/10, Total Rebounds 35, Fouls 15, Assists 8, Turnovers 11, Steals 2
Marshall: Meadows 18, McKenty 17, Greer 8, Barnard 6, Fehrenbacher 3, Brown 2, Reed 2
Letcher: Eldridge 17, Cornett 16, Stidham 15, Breeding 2, Bentley 2