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With two of the top teams in Kentucky and several of the state’s best players, what separated the LaRue County Lady Hawks from the Elizabethtown Lady Panthers was the work they did on the offensive glass.
The 15th-ranked Lady Hawks grabbed 16 offensive boards which led to 16 second-chance points as they rallied from an early deficit to stun top-ranked Elizabethtown, 65-58 on Monday night at Charlie Rawlings Memorial Gymnasium.
“It was the difference in the game,” Elizabethtown coach Tim Mudd said. “We had 11 (offensive rebounds) and that’s really good for us, but they had more than that at halftime. We did a better job the second half, but they killed us on the glass.”
LaRue County (13-4) has won three straight and seven in the last eight. It was the second consecutive win over Elizabethtown as the Lady Hawks won, 49-39 last season.
“It’s a big win for us,” LaRue County senior Ivy Brown said. “It’s not a game we didn’t expect to win. Some people might think this is a fluke win, but we knew all along that we could win. It’s something we expected.”
Elizabethtown (15-4) saw its six-game winning streak come to an end. The Lady Panthers can point to two areas – rebounding and defense – which cost them. LaRue County shot 50 percent from the field after the first quarter and held a 39-30 advantage on the boards.
“It’s a learning process for us right now,” Elizabethtown sophomore Erin Boley said. “They killed us on the boards and that’s how they were getting all their points the first half. That had a big impact on the game.
“This shows us what we need to work on, like defense and rebounding,” she added. “We need to work on the little things like blocking out and rotating on defense. We have to learn from this.”
The stars came out on this night. Brown turned in a spectacular performance with 27 points, 18 rebounds and six assists. Junior Alexis Brewer chipped in with 19 points to go along with five rebounds and three assists.
Not to be outdone, Boley poured in 29 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Junior Darien Huff added 14 points and dished out four assists, while junior Reauna Cleaver had 11 points and seven rebounds.
“With this many good players in the game, we worked together as a team,” Brown said. “We did a good job of finding one another and working together.”
It didn’t start that way for the Lady Hawks, who trailed 13-4 with 4:45 left in the first quarter after Huff drained a 3-pointer from the right baseline.
After LaRue County cut the lead to 18-12, Huff came up with a steal which led to a layup and Boley nailed a 3-pointer to push the lead to 23-14 with 6:32 remaining before halftime.
“When you go against a team like E’town, you have to weather the storm,” LaRue County coach Travis Wootton said. “They are going to come out and hit you in the mouth. You have to hit back.”
The Lady Hawks did exactly that, closing the first half on a 19-2 run to take a 33-25 halftime lead. Brewer and Brown sparked the run, combining for 15 points despite both playing with two fouls.
Elizabethtown started the second half with a 6-0 run, and after back-to-back baskets by Brown, tied the game at 37 on a 3-pointer by Boley and a three-point play by Cleaver with 3:55 left.
The Lady Panthers took a 43-41 lead with 1:13 remaining on a Boley layup, but LaRue County answered with a game-decisive 12-0 run to build a 52-43 advantage.
The Lady Hawks closed the third quarter with consecutive baskets by Brown and Brewer, and then eighth-grader Mallory Williams drained a 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter followed by layups by Brown and junior Alyson Yingling, who scored 10 points.
“It was big because of when it happened,” Brown said. “Both teams would go on little streaks. We both made runs, but that was the biggest of the game. We played confident and we played like we were going to win.”
Elizabethtown pulled within five on five occasions in the final 3:49, but each time the Lady Hawks had an answer.
“Give LaRue all the credit; they deserved to win,” Mudd said. “The thing I was glad to see is we played 100 percent better than Friday night. We got the looks we wanted, but we didn’t make shots. Their length bothered us. LaRue was aggressive. They did a good job attacking the rim. That’s why they shot 18 free throws and we shot eight. We need to keep working and getting better.”
UP NEXT: LaRue County plays at 8:30 p.m. Friday in the Louisville Invitational Tournament at Bellarmine University.