To quote former New York Yankee great Yogi Berra, it was “like déjà vu all over again.”
For the past two seasons, the Letcher County Central Lady Cougars have ended excellent seasons with heartbreaking losses to Breathitt County in the 14th Regional tournaments.
Last March, LCCHS ended a 28-5 season with a loss to Breathitt County in the regional finals. Last Friday night, Breathitt County defeated LCCHS 61-54 in the regional semifinals — ending LCCHS’s 25-5 season.
LCCHS coach Dickie Adams acknowledged it had been a heck of a season that, just maybe, had ended sooner than hoped for.
“But don’t they all end too soon?” asked coach Adams. “I’ve had just one basketball season that didn’t end too soon for me. That season was 1972. … I’m so proud of these players and what they’ve accomplished this year.”
Adams was a starting guard on the Roanoke College team that won the 1972 NCAA Division II national championship.
Breathitt County defeated Knott County Central last Saturday night for its fourth consecutive regional championship and will meet 16th Regional champion Rowan Count, in the opening round of the girls’ Sweet Sixteen this evening (March 10) in Bowling Green.
Cold shooting (5 of 31 first-half field goal attempts for16 percent) LCCHS fell behind the Lady ‘Cats early — trailing 14-6 at the end of the opening quarter and 23-13 at the half.
“We’ve played through stretches in the past when we didn’t shoot well,” said coach Adams, “but when the shots weren’t dropping tonight our kids weren’t able to relax and do the other things. Instead, we were too quick to shoot and didn’t give our off ense a chance to get us a good shot.”
Freshman guard Kelah Eldridge, who had been largely carrying LCCHS off ensively over the past few weeks, was scoreless until the final minute of the third quarter when she scored LCCHS’s final five points to cut Breathitt County’s advantage to 31-21 heading into the final period.
Coach Adams said he was proud that his players never quit. Over the final eight minutes, Eldridge scored 12 points and senior Brittany Sexton, who finished with a team-high 19 points, added eight points and LCCHS closed to within 58-51 in the final minute. Eldridge missed a deep open trey at the top of the circle with 46 seconds left that would have made the final seconds interesting. Eldridge finished with 17 points.
“We had a chance there at the end,” said coach Adams. “Breathitt County’s tough and can make you play less than you want. They have very long and physical players and they make you play your best if you’re going to win and we didn’t play good enough to win.
“I think Breathitt County is a very good team and (coach) Peggy (Moore) has a quality program and I wish them all the best next week.”
Breathitt County, now 22-7, was led by All-Stater Kendall Noble, a 5-10 sophomore guard, who took this game over early by scoring 10 of her team’s first 14 points. She did it all — finishing with a double/double of 26 points and 10 rebounds. She also dished out four assists and came up with four steals and blocked three shots. Tori Shouse and Leslie Spencer chipped in with 10 points each.
Sophomore Erica Meade battled a knee injury all week and finished with eight points and three assists. Sophomore Haley Whitaker contributed seven points and six rebounds. Senior forward Shannon Bays fouled out with eight rebounds and three points.
LCCHS’s second-half shooting improved (12/26 for 46 percent) and the Lady Cougars finished at 17/57 for 30 percent.
Breathitt County made 22/41 field goal attempts for 54 percent. The Lady ‘Cats out-rebounded LCCHS 39-33.