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Senior twins Valerie and Lyndsay Whitlock – and the LaRue County Lady Hawks – finally have their 18th District Basketball Tournament title.
After six years and in their final season, the sisters finally got to cut down the nets.
They were so happy, they draped them around their necks and wore them like large championship necklaces the whole night.
“I’m wearing this the rest of the night. This is the beginning of LaRue County basketball coming back,” said Valerie, as she pointed toward a large piece of twine dangling around her.
Lyndsay wanted to do the same.
“I think I’ll wear it all night, too,” Lyndsay said. “This was only our final opportunity and I love my teammates for this. Every piece of this is theirs. I love them. I’m so, so happy.”
Eighth-grader Alexis Brewer totaled a team-high 16 points, freshman Ivy Brown added 11 and the Whitlocks scored nine each as top-seeded LaRue County held on for a 49-43 win over second-seeded Hart County in Friday night’s title game in Hodgenville.
It marked LaRue County’s first district title since 2004 – and the first for the Whitlocks and coach Travis Wootton in their six years with the program.
The Lady Hawks (26-3) added to their school record win total and knocked the Lady Raiders off for the second time in three games this season.
It meant as much to Wootton as it did to the Whitlocks.
His sister, Allison, played for LaRue County and helped lead the program to the 1994 district tournament title and the school’s first 5th Region Tournament victory and finished her career as one of the program’s top five all-time leading scorers. Now, Wootton can say he’s coached the Lady Hawks to a title, too.
“She’s a lot of the reason I’m the head girls’ coach here,” Wootton said. “It’s very special. ... It feels really good. I’m proud of the girls and what they’ve done. But they’re still hungry. We want some more.”
More could come at Marion County at 8 p.m. Tuesday, when LaRue County puts its nine-game winning streak on the line against Washington County (15-13) in the region tournament quarterfinals. LaRue County beat Washington County less than two weeks ago, 48-29.
As for the district title, they won it as a team.
Their height advantage and youth helped them pull this tight, physical game out.
Despite battling foul trouble, Brown provided them with a boost near the end of each half.
Trailing 19-16, LaRue County outscored Hart County 6-2 in the final 2:20 of the second quarter to grab a 22-21 halftime lead.
Hart County got into second-quarter foul problems of its own, with four starters recording two fouls each. Wootton noticed and put Brown, with two fouls, back in for the final minute and a half. She and Lyndsay Whitlock combined for the team’s final six points to push them ahead.
“We got the ball inside and they couldn’t stop us. We just got to the free-throw line and finished our shots,” said Brown, who hit 5-of-8 free throws. “Inside was big for us.”
That it was, and LaRue County never trailed again.
With Hart County (20-9) keying in on the Whitlocks and Brown, who was in foul trouble through three quarters, inside most of the night, that left room for Brewer to drive – especially in the final period.
Leading 35-31 with 7:27 left, Brewer scored four straight points off two Brown assists. She drove into the lane, passed inside to Brown, who threw it back out to her for an easy basket and then posted up for another hoop to give her team a 39-31 lead with 6:21 remaining.
After Hart County cut its deficit to five, Brown went to work again. She scored five straight points, including three from the foul line, to push her team’s lead to 46-35 with 3:05 to play.
“Ivy is a good finisher. She’s the best free-throw shooter we have,” Valerie Whitlock said. “She makes her free throws. She’s an and-one girl and we knew we needed her.”
The Lady Raiders still had one last run.
Hart County cut its deficit to 46-41 with 51.6 seconds remaining and got within 47-43 with 21.7 seconds left on a pair of free throws by junior guard Jordan Strother.
But the Lady Hawks added two free throws – one from Valerie Whitlock and another from Brewer – to ice the game.
Junior guard Lexee Wilson led the Lady Raiders with a game-high 17 points, while junior forward Lyndsey Burd added 14. But the Lady Hawks made them struggle from the field, as the pair shot a combined 9-for-29 from the field.
“We got the ball in (Lexee’s) hands. We kept trying to run the high screen-and-roll and they took that away well,” said Hart County coach John Burd. “We’ve got to be focused on the game and our execution. We got a little bit distracted by the foul trouble.”
John Groth can be reached at (270) 505-1754 or at email@example.com
LARUE COUNTY 49
HART COUNTY 43
Hart County 12 9 10 12—43
LaRue County 10 12 12 15—49
Team FG FT R TP
Hart County 13-45 17-28 35 43
LaRue County 15-45 18-33 40 49
Player FG FT R TP
Le. Burd 1-4 1-2 2 3
Wilson 5-13 7-9 7 17
Ly. Bird 4-16 6-7 13 14
Strother 0-3 1-2 2 1
Scott 2-7 0-4 4 4
Butler 1-2 2-4 0 4
Avery 0-0 0-0 2 0
Bunnell 0-0 0-0 1 0
Player FG FT R TP
L. Whitlock 3-7 3-6 9 9
Howell 0-0 0-0 2 0
V. Whitlock 4-13 1-4 2 9
Brown 3-7 5-8 9 11
Brewer 4-11 7-11 9 16
Zajdel 0-3 0-0 0 0
Holt 0-3 1-2 5 1
Evans 1-1 1-2 2 3
3-POINTERS: HART COUNTY (0-7): Lexee Wilson 0-3, Leah Burd 0-2, Molley Scott 0-1, Jordan Strother 0-1. LARUE COUNTY (1-4): Alexis Brewer 1-4. ASSISTS: HART COUNTY (5): Leah Burd 2, Lyndsey Burd 1, Jordan Strother 1, Lexee Wilson 1. LARUE COUNTY (13): Lyndsay Whitlock 4, Ivy Brown 3, Valerie Whitlock 3, Alexis Brewer 2, Nancy Howell 1.