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Lady Cougars cling to Top 25 rating

The Letcher County Central Lady Cougars offset last week’s loss on the road at fourth ranked Perry County Central with a convincing win over visiting Leslie County last Friday night.

In this week’s Dave Cantrall’s Lexington Herald-Leader basketball poll, LCCHS dropped two spots in the top 25 poll — from 23rd to 25th.

The Lady Cougars, now 18-4, host Cordia Friday evening, Feb. 3, in the first game of a girl-boy doubleheader with the tipoff at 6 p.m.

The Lady Cougars visit Estill County on Saturday afternoon with the tipoff scheduled for 3:30 p.m . e

Th Lady Cougars wrap up the final two weeks of the regular season with four road games: at Hazard on Feb. 6, at Jenkins on Feb. 10, at Owsley County on Saturday afternoon, Feb. 11 and at Shelby Valley on Feb. 13.

The Jenkins Lady Cavaliers will host this year’s 53rd District tournament the week of Feb. 20.

The Lady Cougars remain unbeaten (4-0) in district play and can clinch the top seed with a victory over Cordia this Friday evening. Knott County is second with a 3-2 record.

Letcher Central 61

Leslie County 39

The host Lady Cougars rebounded from their loss at Perry County Central with a workmanlike victory over a very respectable Leslie County on Jan. 27. The Lady Cougars’ only loss in the region this year has been to PCC in Hazard.

LCC, with balanced scoring from four players — including double-doubles from Julie Cornett and Keisha Collins — controlled the game from the opening tipoff. LCC built an early 10-15 point advantage and then maintained that cushion before pulling away in the final quarter.

Junior forward Keisha Collins, who began starting two weeks ago in place of the injured Vannah Breeding, solidified her claim to a starting spot with another solid effort on both ends of the floor. She had a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds in the first half and finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds.

LCC led 18-10 after the first quarter and 29-20 at the break.

Haley Whitaker’s baseline jumper with 6:21 left in the third quarter gave LCC a 31-22 lead and the game was halted and Whitaker was presented with the basketball for scoring her 1,000th career point. Whitaker finished with a strong stat sheet line of six points, five rebounds, four assists and four steals.

With 2:03 left in the third quarter, Julie Cornett picked up her fourth foul and Leslie County closed to with 34-26 on freshman guard Katie Moore’s pair of free throws. Moore finished with a game-high 20 points.

Kelah Eldridge’s trey closed out a 7-0 run to end the third quarter and extended the Lady Cougars’ lead to 41-31. Eldridge finished with 16 points — including three- for-three from behind the arc in the second half.

Julie Cornett, despite foul trouble, scored seven of LCC’s final 11 points. Cornett, who also had 10 first half rebounds, finished with 13 rebounds and16 points.

Erica Meade chipped in with 11 points, seven rebounds and four assists. Cheyanne Stidham added two points.

Perry Central 57

Letcher Central 48

Perry County Central took advantage of LCC’s inside players’ foul troubles to rally down the stretch for the victory last Tuesday, Jan. 24.

LCC jumped to a 6- 0 early lead over the 17- 1 and fourth ranked Lady Commodores and led 9-2 with 3:12 left in the first quarter after the second of Haley Whitaker’s treys. A layup by junior Keisha Collins extended LCC’s lead to 17-11 at the end of the first quarter.

LCC’s defense was outstanding in the first half on every Lady Commodore — except talented 6’0” sophomore forward, Kayla Rankin, who scored PCC’s first nine points. Rankin finished with a game-high 22 points — 12 in the first half.

The Lady Cougars denied All-Stater Kendall Nobel the ball inside in the first half and when other players shot and missed, the Lady Cougars claimed the rebounds. Nobel’s only basket of the first half came at the 6:01 mark of the second quarter. She finished with 12 points.

Junior Julie Cornett’s layup with 5:01 left in the second quarter pushed LCC’s lead to 26-13. The Lady Cougars then went the next nearly five minutes without scoring until Haley Whitaker’s free throw with 13 seconds left made the half time score 27-19.

While LCC was missing shots, fouling and turning the basketball over on five mistakes, the Lady Commodores were unable to take advantage because they were also missing shots.

At the half, LCC’s inside duo of juniors Julie Cornett and Keisha Collins had five points each but were saddled with two fouls.

Senior Erica Meade suffered a terrible shooting night. She missed all eight of her first half shots — finishing one-for nine and five points — but her defense on Noble and her (6) rebounding were outstanding.

PCC used a 6-0 run to start the third quarter with Noble’s layup cutting LCC’s lead to 27-25 with 6:15 left in the quarter. LCC appeared to rush its shots for most of the second half. Rankin’s offensive stick-back with 2:20 left in the third tied the game at 32-32. There were four lead changes before the quarter ended with the score tied at 36-36.

PCC took the lead for good, 37- 36, on Katelyn Smith’s free throw with 7:10 left to play.

Keisha Collins’s fourth foul came on Rankin’s offensive put-back and gave PCC its largest lead at 42-38 with 5:40 left to play. Collins fouled out with 3:07 left to play and PCCHS up 48-43.

Tamara Crawford, who had only one point through the first three quarters, scored all 10 of her points — including six-of-eight free throws — down the stretch to allow the Lady Commodores to preserve the victory.

Julie Cornett led the Lady Cougars with a team-high 16 points and 16 rebounds. Keisha Collins finished with 10 points and four rebounds. Kelah Eldridge suffered through her own shooting woes — two-of-14 from the field — and fouled out in the final minute with 10 points. Haley Whitaker finished with seven points, seven assists and three steals.

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