The LaRue County Lady Hawks have their first 18th District Tournament semifinal victory in coach Travis Wooton’s six-year tenure.
Senior twins Valerie and Lyndsay Whitlock will finally have their chance at their first district title.
But it took them a half to rid themselves of some nerves before they returned to their bread-and-butter inside game. Then, they dominated low to continue their record-setting season.
Freshman Ivy Brown recorded a double-double with game-highs of 20 points and 19 rebounds and the Whitlocks combined for 25 points in top-seeded LaRue County’s 58-38 win over fourth-seeded Caverna in Monday’s opening semifinal in Hodgenville.
Caverna coach Cornelius Faulkner acknowledged the Lady Hawks abused the Lady Colonels inside in the second half – outscoring them by 15 points.
“They’re a whole lot bigger team than us, and they used that to their advantage. They did a great job of attacking us inside and getting us in foul trouble,” Faulkner said. “It’s hard to compete with the size they have. That’s why they’ve got the record they’ve got this year.”
LaRue County (25-3) advanced to Friday’s 6:30 p.m. title game, where the Lady Hawks will play the winner of tonight’s semifinal between second-seeded Hart County (19-8) and third-seeded Green County (10-16). LaRue County is aiming for its first district title since 2004.
LaRue County won its third game over Caverna (4-18) this season – and its second over the Lady Colonels by at least 20 points.
It looked like this night could turn into a struggle – just like LaRue County’s first game against Caverna when the Lady Hawks hung on for an overtime win and the first half of their second game.
Caverna stayed patient and let junior guard Breanna Goodnight (nine points on 3-of-3 shooting) shoot it into a tight game.
Meanwhile, LaRue County couldn’t hit shots (8-of-30 from the field), couldn’t capitalize on free throws (8-of-18) and couldn’t stay out of foul trouble.
With just over 6 minutes left in the second quarter, the Whitlocks had two fouls each, and by halftime, the Lady Hawks had four players with two fouls apiece.
Leading 17-16, Wooton elected to sit the Whitlocks for the final 6 minutes of the second quarter. The Lady Hawks increased their lead to just 24-19 at the half.
Brown helped give them that slim lead, nearly totaling a double-double (eight points, nine rebounds) in the first quarter and had 10 points and 15 rebounds by the half.
“As long as we were up four to five points, I didn’t mind letting them sit,” Wooton said. “I think it definitely helped Valerie settle her nerves down a bit. She came out and had a great second half. I think she was a little nervous and timid. In the second half, she was more aggressive.”
That she was.
Valerie Whitlock scored on a three-point play just 36 seconds into the third quarter, and the Lady Hawks opened the first six minutes of the half on a 13-3 run. She finished the period with five points and three assists, and the game with 14 points, and three rebounds. Lyndsay also added 11 points and six rebounds.
Wooton also helped spur the run with a yell from the sideline. After the Lady Hawks missed two 3s (they finished 0-of-8 overall) early in the period, Wooton screamed for them to get the ball inside. They followed suit, scoring 18 of their next 19 points in the paint.
“After he yelled at us, we knew we had to get the ball inside,” Brown said. “We just kept at it, and it clicked in our minds. They couldn’t stop us down low.”
It was also a night where Valerie Whitlock also became the school’s all-time career assists leader and now has near 300. She surpassed Brooke Sullivan’s total of 296 with early in the third quarter, when she had three assists on three consecutive LaRue County baskets – the last one coming to her twin to put LaRue County up 35-22 with 3:03 left in the third and the Lady Hawks made it 41-27 at the end of the period.
“In the second half, we really put together a good run,” Wooton said. “Ivy was big. They couldn’t do much with her.”