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18TH DISTRICT TOURNAMENT: Lady Hawks can't overcome Caverna's luck

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Landmark News Service

By Nathaniel Bryan

During a break in practice Monday afternoon, LaRue County freshman guard Presley Brown said the Lady Hawks could shock the 18th District on Tuesday night in tournament semifinals against second-seeded Caverna.

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Had her midcourt, buzzer-beating 3-pointer fallen instead of rimming out, Brown and the third-seeded Lady Hawks might have pulled off a shocker. Instead, the balanced — and sometimes lucky — Lady Colonels survived, 58-55.

The oh-so-close 3 seemed almost fitting for the Lady Hawks, who watched Caverna junior guard Andrea Davis, who had missed 6-of-8 3s, bank in back-to-back 3s in the second half. LaRue County also watched Lady Colonels junior guard Shanda Bradley, who had been 0-for-4 from the arc, rim in her only 3 on a shot which looked like a toilet flushing.

“They got nine points off two banked-in shots and one that went around the rim, hit the backboard and went around again,” said LaRue County coach Travis Wootton, whose team had been beaten soundly twice in the regular season by Caverna. “I guess you could just say it wasn’t meant to be when those fall.”

So LaRue County (9-18), considered a year away from being a bona fide district contender since it returned so little depth, size and experience from last year’s 5th Region Tournament runner-up, had to settle for giving the Lady Colonels (18-9) a 32-minute scare.

LaRue County forward Alyson Yingling, the team’s lone senior, fouled out with 1.6 seconds left after a 15-point, 14-rebound effort. Caverna missed the free throw, like it did all four of its foul shots in the final minute, to give Brown one last chance.

“I didn’t play the whole game to foul out, but I didn’t care and it didn’t matter because the whole point is to play for your team and not yourself,” said Yingling, who earned All-Tournament and All-Season honors after the game. “That was the big thing for us tonight. We were so close. It was just one of those things that left me so proud because he kept fighting.”

While Caverna was able to pull away from the Lady Hawks in both regular-season meetings in commanding fashion, the Lady Colonels had a hard time shaking the plucky Lady Hawks this time.

A lot of that had to do with the poise and balance LaRue County showed. Junior guard Delany Eastridge, who had nine points and five rebounds, made two 3s and passed out two assists as the Lady Hawks shot out to a 12-9 lead. Brown, who just missed a double-double with nine rebounds and a game-high 24 points, had five points and an assist in the 10-1 run to close the first quarter.

Having not led since 3-2 in the opening 2:04, Caverna didn’t lead again until 34-33 with 4:08 left in the third quarter on two free throws from junior guard Madison Faulkner. One of the most prolific scorers in the state, Faulkner finished with 14 points, but took just seven shots as she was fronted and harassed most of the night by LaRue County sophomore guard Airyl Heath, who didn’t even take a shot.

“(Wootton) wanted me to face guard her the whole time and keep her off the boards and that’s what I did. I went out there and tried my hardest,” Heath said. “I knew she was getting frustrated and I knew I couldn’t lay off (her) for our team. I had to take it.”

LaRue County wasted a nine-point lead, but took its last lead with 18 seconds left in the third quarter at 41-39 on a steal and layup by Brown.

“I was pleased with how the team fought and how we came together as a team,” Heath said. “We’re so young and we have a lot to learn and tonight showed just how far we’ve come.”

But much like she did at the end of the first half, Caverna senior guard Ciara Waggoner (11 points) drove through the heart of the Lady Hawks defense for a buzzer-beating layup to tie it at 41 and keep the Lady Colonels from trailing again.

The layup seemed to finally give Caverna the momentum as the Lady Colonels scored on their first five possessions of the fourth quarter to take a 55-45 lead with 4:12 left in the game.

Unlike the teams’ previous two meetings, LaRue County wasn’t going away easily. The Lady Hawks had three chances to tie in the final 80 seconds, but they amounted to a turnover, a missed 3 by Eastridge and Brown’s final shot.

“You know, I couldn’t be happier other than the fact we came up that short,” said Wootton, who consoled Yingling with an on-court hug. “I think we grew up as a team. Unfortunately, Alyson’s gone and she won’t be with us, but she was a great leader this year. She developed into somebody who showed those young kids how to play hard all the time.”

CAVERNA 58, LARUE COUNTY 55

Caverna 10 18 14 17—58

LaRue County 19 11 11 14—55

Caverna (18-9)

Andrea Davis 14, Madison Faulkner 14, Kiara Kirk 11, Ciara Waggoner 11, Shanda Bradley 6, Cailee Carter 2. FG: 21-45. FT: 10-17. 3-pointers: 6-18 (Davis 4-11, Bradley 1-5, Kirk 1-2). Rebs: 18 (Kirk 7, Faulkner 5). Assists: 11 (Waggoner 5).

LaRue County (9-18)

Presley Brown 24, Alyson Yingling 15, Delany Eastridge 11, Mallory Williams 5. FG: 20-42. FT: 10-14. 3-pointers: 5-13 (Eastridge 3-7, Brown 1-4, Williams 1-2). Rebs: 34 (Yingling 14, Brown 9, Eastridge 5). Assists: 13 (Williams 5, Eastridge 4, Brown 3).