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The Marion County Lady Knights varsity basketball team played for a state title Saturday evening, an accomplishment that no other girls' team has been able to reach. Last year's team had advanced the farthest up to this point, making it to the final four. With a tough battle sure to follow, the Lady Knights knew they had to be up to a serious challenge. After a 32-minute, knock-down, drag-out battle, the Lady Knights came up just a bit short, and fell to Manual by a final score of 58-54.
The Lady Knights and Lady Crimsons were set to tangle for the third time this season. The two teams split the two previous meetings, with the Lady Knights taking a two-point victory and the Lady Crimsons handing the Lady Knights their only loss to a Kentucky team by seven points.
Heading into the Sweet 16, all of the buzz was about the possible rematch of the two teams. Manual defeated their Sweet 16 opponents by an average of 24 points while the Lady Knights had won by an average of 21 points. Both teams ran through the tournament field, and met in an epic battle on Saturday night in the championship game.
The intensity of the first few minutes of the game was off the charts, as both teams came out playing at full speed. Marion County held a 10-7 lead with 3:01 left in the opening frame after four straight points by senior Bre Elder. Manual would answer with seven of the final 10 points of the frame to hold a 14-13 lead at the end of the opening frame.
A 10-0 run by Manual to open the second quarter would prove to be costly for the Lady Knights. Manual's lead grew to 24-13 with just under five minutes left in the half. Marion County would fight back to stay in the game. The Lady Knights cut the lead to five points before a last second basket by Manual made the halftime margin seven points with a score of 30-23.
Marion County would hold their own as the third quarter played out. The Lady Knights would trail 38-30 with 5:46 remaining in the period. Elder and junior Makayla Epps would lead the comeback effort by the Lady Knights over the final five minutes of the frame. Elder scored five points while Epps put in six points to cut the deficit to just one point heading into the final frame.
The lead would change hands six times over the first three minutes of the fourth quarter. After a three-pointer by Manual, Epps would step to the line and connect on two free throws to knot the score at 49 with 4:34 showing on the clock. The Lady Crimsons were able to take advantage of a 7-2 spurt to take a 56-51 lead with just 19.7 seconds left. Epps would nail a three pointer with 11 seconds remaining to keep the Lady Knights in the game. After a foul on the Lady Knights, the Lady Crimson stepped to the line and connected on two key free throws to push the lead back to four points with on 9.3 seconds remaining. On their last possession, the Lady Knights turned the ball over with just two seconds remaining. Time ran out, and Marion County saw their chance at a state title slip away as they fell to Manual by a final score of 58-54.
"The better team won," Head Coach Trent Milby said. "They got to loose balls and made plays when needed. Give Manual credit. They were No. 1 all year and they deserved the title. We gave it a good run and I'm proud of the team. We just came up a little short."
Junior Kyvin Goodin-Rogers received the Kentucky National Guard Leadership Award.
Senior Bre Elder and juniors Makayla Epps and Logan Powell were named to the all-tournament team.
Marion Co. 13 10 18 13 - 54
Manual 14 16 12 16 - 58
Marion County (33-5): Makayla Epps 23, Logan Powell 11, Kyvin Goodin-Rogers 9, Bre Elder 9, Patrice Tonge 2
DuPont Manual (37-2): April Wilson 23, Leasia Wright 21, Kayla Styles 9, Kara Wright 5
In the semi-finals vs. Lincoln County
Senior Bre Elder scored just three seconds after the tip-off and added another field goal less than a minute later to give the Lady Knights an early 4-0 lead. Lincoln County would answer with six straight points to take a 6-4 lead halfway through the opening period. Both teams would trade baskets for the remainder of the period as the score was tied at 13 when the period ended.
The Lady Knights scored the first six points of the second quarter before the Lady Patriots could find the basket. Marion County would finish the half on a 8-2 run to grab a 27-19 lead heading into the break. Junior Kyvin Goodin-Rogers led the way for the Lady Knights with seven points in the period.
Coming out of the half, the Lady Knights went on a run that all but put the game out of reach. The Lady Knights scored 14 of the first 16 points to take a 20-point lead with a score of 41-21 with 4:38 showing on the clock. The Lady Patriots were limited to just one field goal and a pair of free throws to close the quarter, as the Lady Knights expanded their lead to 25 points when the frame closed out.
The lead grew to 58-26 four minutes into the last quarter. Lincoln County made a run that made the score a bit more respectable. Lincoln County was able to connect on 14 of the final 17 points to make the final score 61-40. Sophomore Alexus Calhoun scored six points in the period to lead the Lady Knights.
"We started out a little sluggish and got into some foul trouble early," Milby said. "We played an excellent second quarter with Bre and Patrice on the bench in foul trouble."
Milby also commented on the second half defensive intensity of the team. "Coming out in the second half, we got a couple of quick turnovers and easy baskets," he said. "Once we started pounding the ball inside, Lincoln County started rushing their shots and that played right into our hands."
Junior Makayla Epps said that she backed up her statement after last year's loss.
"I made a big statement last year saying we would be back here, now we're in the finals," she said. "Instead of going home this morning, it's do or die tonight."
Marion Co. 13 14 23 11 - 61
Lincoln Co. 13 6 6 15 - 40
Marion County (34-4): Bre Elder 16, Makayla Epps 12, Kyvin Goodin-Rogers 11, Alexus Calhoun 7, Logan Powell 5, Patrice Tonge 4, Ambrasia Adams 3, Haeli Howard 3
Lincoln County (26-10): Emily Fox 19, Kourtney Belcher 10, Sydney Harris 6, Tiandra Hocker 4, Chansler Gilbert 1
In the second round vs. Hopkinsville
The Marion County Lady Knights took on Hopkinsville in the second round of the Sweet Sixteen Girls' State Basketball Tournament Friday night at Diddle Arena. Coming off of a game where the Lady Knights struggled with alternating defenses from Walton-Verona, Marion County left no doubt as they rolled over Hopkinsville by 37 points. Juniors Patrice Tonge and Makayla Epps led the way for Marion County with 18 points each.
The Lady Tigers scored the opening basket of the game, and led by two points. However, this would be the largest lead of the night for Hopkinsville as Marion County quickly overcame the deficit and left the remainder of the game after the 3:39 mark of the first quarter. Epps put in seven of the teams 11 points in the opening frame.
Marion County continued to dominate as they expanded their lead to 17-8 on a senior Emily Fenwick bucket at the 5:22 mark. Hopkinsville would score five straight points as junior Logan Powell was whistled for her third foul. The Lady Tigers trimmed the lead to 17-13 before Marion County finished the half with a 10-0 run to take a 27-13 lead into the locker room.
In the third period, the Lady Knights began to pull away. Midway through the frame, Marion County began a 17-4 spurt to essentially put the game out of reach. Tonge led the way during the run with 10 of the 17 points. A late three-pointer by Hopkinsville would finish off the third frame with Marion County in control and leading 50-26.
If there was any doubt left, the Lady Knights hit another spurt to make the score even more lopsided. The Lady Tigers were held scoreless in the final period until the 1:55 mark when they connected on a pair of free throws. Meanwhile, the Lady Knights had scored 16 straight points to balloon their lead to 40 points with a score of 66-26. Marion County went on to easily cruise to the semifinals with the 67-30 victory.
"Once we got going in our press and got the game going up and down, we forced Hopkinsville to take bad shots," Milby said. "We did a great job rebounding and throwing the ball out, and made good plays in the open floor."
Milby also commented on the rebounding of junior Kyvin Goodin-Rogers.
"I've challenged her to get 15 rebounds every night since region started," he said. "She always seems to step her game up during tournament time. She's a great rebounder and a good outlet passer."
Marion Co. 11 16 23 17 - 67
Hopkinsville 5 8 13 4 - 30
Marion County (33-4): Patrice Tonge 18, Makayla Epps 18, Bre Elder 12, Logan Powell 8, Kyvin Goodin-Rogers 6, Emily Fenwick 2, Alexus Calhoun 2, Timmera Burton 1
Hopkinsville (32-5): Christy Soldo 10, Haley Cook 6, Ashlee Cole 5, Trina Cager 5, Jakeira Majors 2, Jazmyn Edwards 2
In the first round vs. Walton Verona
Thursday afternoon, the Marion County Lady Knights varsity basketball team played Walton Verona in the first round of the Sweet Sixteen Girls' State Basketball Tournament at Diddle Arena. After a close game throughout, the Lady Knights pulled out the 56-49 win to advance to the quarterfinals. Juniors Kyvin Goodin-Rogers and Makayla Epps led the way for Marion County with 15 and 14 points, respectively.
The Bearcats jumped out to a 7-4 lead early on before the Lady Knights fought back to tie the score at nine and take the lead shortly after. The Lady Knights would lead for the remainder of the game. Goodin-Rogers led the attack for Marion County with six of her 15 points.
After being outscored 10-7 in the second frame, the Lady Knights hung on to a slim three-point halftime lead. Senior Bre Elder was whistled for her third foul with just over three minutes left in the half and was forced to sit out the remainder of the period on the bench. The Lady Knights connected on just 2-14 from the field in the second quarter, but managed to hang on to the lead.
An even third quarter played out, with each team matching the others point output. Marion County opened the frame with an 8-2 run to take a 31-22 lead with 5:28 left. However, Walton-Verona answered with an 8-0 spurt to cut the lead back to just one point at 31-30 with three and a half minutes remaining. Epps and Elder scored the final six points for Marion County as the third frame ended with Marion County up 37-34.
Junior Logan Powell opened up the final period with six points in the midst of an 11-3 Marion County run. The Lady Knights took their biggest lead of the game at 11 points with a score of 48-37 with 3:39 left in the game. The Bearcats made another run of 8-0 however, to cut the lead back to just three points and remain in the game. Marion County would finish the game by scoring eight of the final twelve points. A steal by Elder and a layup with just 16 second remaining would seal the game as the Lady Knights hung on for the 56-49 win.
"When you get to this point, you just survive and move on," Milby said. "We weren't particularly on our game as far as pushing the ball, and settled for outside shots. We hung in there and ground it out for four quarters."
Milby also commented on the inability of the team to put what they practiced into the game.
"Some of the things we worked on in practice, we didn't do and that is what I'm disappointed about, but we'll take the win," he said.
Marion Co. 16 7 14 19 - 56
Walton Verona 10 10 14 15 - 49
Marion County (32-4): Kyvin Goodin-Rogers 15, Makayla Epps 14, Bre Elder 12, Logan Powell 10, Patrice Tonge 3, Emily Fenwick 2
Walton Verona (29-7): Michele Judy 17, Courtney Sandlin 10, Kara Taulbee 8, Lizzie Hoffa 7, Katie Slavey 5, Molly Clinkenbeard 2