53rd District Champion Letcher County Central romped over the Leslie County Lady Eagles, 61-31, in the opening round of the girls’ 14th Regional Tournament Monday night in Jackson.
The Lady Cougars will play 55th District champions Breathitt County in the first semifinal game on Friday night at 6:30.
The Lady Bobcats (22-11) defeated Owsley County in Monday night’s other opening round game. They lost twice to the Lady Cougars during the regular season.
In a game that saw Leslie County without freshman scoring ace Katie Moore (20 ppg), Letcher Central’s Kelah Eldridge, Julie Cornett and Erica Meade helped the Lady Cougars jump out to a 14-7 lead by the end of the first quarter. LCC really turned up the full-court defensive pressure in the second quarter while Eldridge scored 11 of her team’s final 14 first half points as the Lady Cougars extended the margin to 38-11 by the break.
Despite sloppy play and six turnovers, Letcher Central extended the margin to 50-14 after three quarters.
Cornett, who had 12 points in the first half, finished with a gamehigh 20 points and 14 rebounds. Eldridge scored 13 points in the first half and finished with 19 points and seven assists. Meade chipped in with nine points and 12 rebounds.
In the first half, LCC shot a blistering 52% (16-of-31) but cooled off in the second half (9-of-32) to finish with 40% for the game. The Lady Cougars, who average 44 rebounds per game, out-rebounded Leslie County 50-22.
Cheyanne Stidham scored four points to help the Lady Cougars improve to 24-5. Kelli Quillen added three points. Keisha Collins battled foul troubles and finished with two points. Kim Meade also finished with two points and Emily Blair scored one point.
Brooke Asher’s team-high seven points led 17-13 Leslie County.
The Lady Cougars won the 53rd District championship over Knott County Central last Friday, their fifth such title in the school’s seven year history.
The Lady Cougars, who were unbeaten in the district, were ranked in the state’s Top 25 poll for the final five weeks of the regular season.
The Lady Cougars have only two seniors — Haley Whitaker and Erica Meade – and are rated as a dark horse to unseat No. 4 Perry County Central in this week’s regional. The Lady Cougars and Lady Commodores drew into opposite brackets and are expected to meet Saturday night’s championship.
The 14th Region champion will meet the 7th Region champion in the opening game of the girls’ Sweet Sixteen in Bowling Green on March 7.
Letcher Central 48
Knott Central 34
The Lady Cougars’ use of a surprisingly effective zone defense surprised and disrupted the Lady Patriots, a team that greatly depends upon their perimeter offense, in winning the 53rd District Championship on Feb. 24 at Jenkins High School.
The Lady Cougars’ zone, which adjusted at times into match-ups and unbalanced sets, confused and frustrated the Lady Patriots’ into just 25% field goal shooting in the first half and 27% for the game.
LCC out-rebounded the Lady Patriots 17-8 in the first half and 44-18 for the game.
LCC’s zone limited the Lady Patriots’ high-scoring junior guard Paige Slone (23 ppg) to 0-for-8 from behind the arc and five points in the first half. Slone finally hit a pair of treys in the third quarter and finished with a team-high 13 points.
Knott Central had no answer for the Lady Cougars’ inside game as LCC raced to a 16-8 lead by the end of the first quarter and extended the margin to 24-11 by the break.
Julie Cornett and Keisha Collins combined for half the team’s 24 first-half points. Kelah Eldridge had seven points and wound up with a game-high 15 points.
LCCHS shot 53% on 11- of-21 field goal attempts in the first half and 7-of-22 in the second half for 42% for the game.
In the third quarter, Cornett’s layup took LCC to its largest lead of the game at 30-14. KCC trailed 35-20 entering the final quarter and closed to within 41-30 on senior Kelsie Jacobs’ leaner with 4:05 left. Whitaker and Erica Meade scored the next four points for a 45-30 lead with 2:18 left and the defending district champion Lady Patriots had to settle for runner-up this season.
Julie Cornett finished with 12 points for the 22-5 Lady Cougars. Keisha Collins and Whitaker chipped in with eight points each. Erica Meade added five points.
Kelsie Jacobs and Regan King finished with seven points each for the 19-11 Lady Patriots.
Letcher Central 89
The Lady Cougars had little trouble in downing the hapless Lady Lions in the semi-finals of the girls’ district tourney last week.
All 15 players in uniform scored for the Lady Cougars with junior guard Kelah Eldridge leading with a gamehigh 15 points. Emily Blair tossed in 12 points and Julie Cornett finished with 10 points. Cheyanne Stidham and Kim Meade added nine and eight points, respectively.
Erica Meade, Kristina Bentley and Keisha Collins scored six points each. Courtney Brock tossed in four points and Brittany Wright added three points. Haley Whitaker, Kelli Quillen and Kelly Adams scored two points each. Amber Crawford and Sara Baker finished with one point each.